My best make money blogging tips EXPOSED!
Today I am excited and nervous at the same time to share my income report on the blog.
I’ve shared a couple of monthly income reports to date but for some reason sharing a monthly recap seems less invasive than a yearly recap.
I’m sharing this annual income report for the same reason I share my monthly reports – so it can give other bloggers an idea of what’s possible and also how much work I had to put in to get the results I had. Some will think I work a lot while others will probably think it’s a pretty sweet work schedule for the money.
I am writing this for all the bloggers (or potential bloggers) who are nowhere near earning a part- or full-time income from their blogs. I was sooooo thankful when I could read income reports from bloggers who were a few steps ahead of me so I could see what might be possible if I applied myself and learned something new every day. Honestly, I don’t know if it weren’t for other bloggers willing to put themselves out there like that, I might have given up before I gave this blogging thing a real chance.
Blogging is hard stuff. I built my blog up through a lot of sweat equity and consistent small steps along the way, from only a few hundred dollars a month in the beginning of 2015 to where it is today.
It’s been a crazy ride, but totally worth IMO. I hope this post will give you a glimpse into what it took to grow my blog to where it is today so you can decide whether or not it’s something you’re willing to do. I am not one to give someone false hope – this stuff is a LOT OF HARD WORK. You will put in many long hours without knowing if you’ll see a return. But if you do eventually figure it out, you will be able to make money on autopilot if you want. It’s funny how this stuff works.
Overall, 2015 was a learning year for me. My blog evolved tremendously over the course of the year, as did I as a blogger.
In this report I am going to focus on numbers like traffic and income because although I gained a lot of knowledge over the course of the year, that’s not quantifiable like those numbers are. I only had time to publish two other income reports before this and those were for the months of July and October. I hope to be more consistent in 2016, but for now this is the last one I plan to publish regarding 2015.
Some of you, if you’ve read my ebook, may have seen this graphic before. This is an illustration of my blogging journey in 2015:
You might be wondering why I’m only sharing my June – December income. That’s because, as you can see from the traffic graph, that’s where over 90% of my annual income was earned and the point when I really started breaking it all out by month (instead of just lumping it all together) in Excel. I also think it’s a good representation of my average income when you divide the $33,500 over 7 months as opposed to stretching it over 12 when I barely earned anything January to May comparatively.
Note: I track income when it’s EARNED, not when it’s paid out for purposes for income reports. I like knowing when I earned the income so whether I receive $2,000 one month and $10,000 the next, I know it was actually earned $6,000 and $6,000 so I can compare month by month and plan accordingly.
For tax purposes, I report income as it is received because I’m on a cash basis for that. So yes Mr. IRS, I have lots of Excel spreadsheets going to reconcile the differences and you can’t exactly go by what I report on the blog to get to my taxable income on a calendar year basis (I know, I need to get some kind of software! adding that to my to do list….)
Here’s where I was as of January 1, 2015 in terms of traffic:
I ended December 2014 with 23.7K page views for the month. My traffic followed an upward trend through mid-February (as you can see in the graphic above) until it dropped off drastically after Valentine’s Day (my blog was Christmas and Valentine’s Day heavy at the time)
You might be wondering what my December 2015 page views were. As you can see in the graphic above, I ended the year with nearly 13,000 – 15,000 page views a day. The month of December 2015 ended up being 433,000 page views total.
Income trend over the course of the year
It wasn’t until May 2015 that I saw to see a significant jump in income. For the first five months of the year, I earned around $2,900 total.
In April 2015, I saw a definite uptick and the trend continued in May. April brought 36,900 monthly visitors. In May I had 80,137. The big jump was due to a couple of posts doing really well on Facebook due to larger bloggers sharing my content (the biggest Facebook share is the huge spike you see in May in the traffic graphic above) as well as a few posts doing well on StumbleUpon. I explain a lot of this in my ebook so I won’t go into detail about it here.
It is really difficult to pinpoint ONE thing that contributed to my momentum starting in May but if I had to narrow it down to a handful of things, this is what I think helped the most:
- I took a real interest in Pinterest and spent a lot of time working on creating good images. I’m still refining my image skills, but now a year later I feel like I am settling on a certain look for most of my images. If you go to my Pinterest blog board you’ll see what I mean. Pinterest always seems to reward active pinners, so I think this focus on Pinterest really helped. It still does.
- I wrote A LOT and tested a lot of post styles and formats. With every new post, I learned something about my content & audience which helped me make the next post even better and so on. Some weeks I’d get ambitious and try to post once per day. I think I made it to 5 per week once and got burned out for a couple weeks afterward. So I’d say my average posting rate is 3 times per week all year long. Over the past year, I’ve experimented with list posts, detailed tutorials, short tips posts, videos, audio, infographics, humorous posts, printables with varying degrees of success.
- I had my blog redesigned in September & redid my categories. My old template didn’t suit my needs as my blog grew, so I had it redesigned to incorporate some of the favorite features I’ve seen on other blogs. As part of this redesign I also took a hard look at my blog categories and got REAL intentional with narrowing down my focus because I wanted to set my site up once and be done with it! This was a tough thing to do because I had over 250 posts at the time, but it’s been so worth it. Now I know where everything goes, and I also know what I don’t write about. The site redesign had a bonus side effect of greatly increasing the navigation capabilities of my site because the new theme (a Genesis theme) is just more navigation friendly than the old theme I purchased on Theme Forest. I’d say after my redesign my traffic instantly improved 5% overnight simply due to the navigational improvements that allow people to jump around my blog more easily.
- I made sure every single thing I did had a purpose. As I started to learn what was making me money and what wasn’t, I started honing my strategies and focusing on what works. Whereas I used to write about whatever I wanted to write about, I changed course and made sure every piece of content fit into my overall content strategy. Most of my content is now wrapped around a specific product or monetized service. You don’t necessarily see it when you go to my blog, but I’ll give you an example to show you what I mean – this is a simple example of a meal planning template. My readers are mostly moms and I love to offer printables on my blog, so I decided a meal planning template would be great to have. I added this as a short post with the goal of getting Pinterest and Google traffic. Then at the bottom of the post I linked up to a post full of coupon printers which pay per print session. And below that I linked to another post that’s a roundup of some resources moms might also be interested in….and many of the resources mentioned in that post are monetized posts. So by posting this one meal planning template, I have the opportunity to convert visitors into revenue by giving them something of value. It’s easy to do and it works because it makes sense! Moms need meal plan printables. Moms who meal plan usually do so to save time and/or money. And moms who like to save money usually like coupons. 🙂 That one coupon post earns me on average $35 a month and I only have a few posts like this linking up to it. Any time I want to in the future, I can keep linking to it all kinds of different ways and increase that income. It’s an income stream waiting to be nurtured.
- I did something to move my blog forward every single day. Some days, especially when my husband was traveling, I really only had an hour or so to sit at the computer to work on the blog after I took care of the kids and the house (which if we’re being honest, I kind of neglect the house sometimes!) I really have to make every minute count so I made sure that I was very intentional about my work time. When I sat down, I took action on something that mattered. But when I wasn’t at my desk working, I was still brainstorming. I would say on average, I *think* about blogging for 2 hours to every 1 hour I actually do work. Sometimes I even spend time in carpool or at swim practice thinking through an affiliate strategy and work out all the logistics (what I will write about, where I will interlink the post within the blog, the types of images I need to create, etc) in my head. 🙂 Because I do a lot of brainstorming in this manner, I always have a notepad or sticky notes in my purse! Also, because I am so limited on actual work time, I am pretty ruthless about cutting out things that take a lot of time yet don’t yield results.
I cover these and a lot of other things I did throughout 2015 to build my blog in my ebook.
Educational Things I Did in 2015
It’s a shame bloggers don’t have their own college degrees….you basically need at least a couple years’ worth of intensive training before you can truly have a good grasp on the blogging process. And even at that – there is always more to learn. So I don’t think it would be a stretch to say blogging could be a 4-year degree.
I used to teach college classes….maybe I’ll start an actual blogging university! 🙂 One day. Someday.
I know I said I would be focusing on income and traffic in this post, but thinking back on 2015, there are a few things that stood out as important to my blog growth education-wise:
- Reading one in-depth blog post per day (or listening to a podcast) – I have Google alert set up for Pinterest articles and I subscribe to about 10 different blogging experts via email. I sign up for webinars all the time…..I rarely catch the original air time, but I use carpool (2:45 – 3:30 p.m. every weekday) to listen to webcasts in the van. Actually, I do a lot of work in my van. Three o’clock is usually the time I will tell someone to call me so we can talk business. I’m guaranteed to have nothing to do but sit in line at that time every day! 🙂 You might think I’d run out of content to consume, but I’m actually way behind. There’s just so much good FREE advice out there! If you’re not subscribed to any blogging experts right now, two I would start with are Jon Morrow and Neil Patel. Save any emails you think are worth reading in a folder in your email account, and refer to it whenever you have some time. I often read up on my “blogging education” while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office or something like that. If you’re more of a video person, you can simply go to YouTube and start searching terms like “affiliate products” or whatever you want to learn about to get access to expert roundtables, interviews, etc. I’m trying to keep some of my favorites (mostly SEO tips) listed on the blog here.
- Taking Pinning Perfect – And just continually improving my Pinterest game by reading articles online. I kind of knew what I was doing on Pinterest after a few months of serious trial and error, but I still wasn’t clear on what the right strategy should be. Pinning Perfect helped set me straight and allowed me to give myself permission to stop pinning randomly and as often as I was. I now have a clear strategy and track everything in an Excel spreadsheet that they give you in the class. I think the price just increased to $99 after Melissa upgraded the course and it will eventually go to $147. Doesn’t really matter – I would pay way more than that for it now that I know what it has done for me and my blog. If you take away anything from this post, take this point. Pinning Perfect should be mandatory education for all bloggers. If this was a college degree, it would be part of the core curriculum.
- Networking in Facebook groups – I joined a lot of Facebook groups for bloggers over the course of the year and asked roughly one bajillion questions. Not an exaggeration. Other bloggers were so kind to share their knowledge with me. I asked about plugins, ad networks, blog design, making printables, growing my email list, tech support, how to use social media, and the list goes on….. if I didn’t understand it, I was in there asking questions until I figured it out! It’s one reason I started my own Facebook group, Adventures in Blogging. I want to be able to help bloggers who are where I was at 1 year ago as well as continue my own learning!
Hours Worked on the Blog
When you look at the traffic chart above compared to my hours worked, you’d be shocked at what you see. I didn’t keep a time log or anything, but I can tell you that back in January – March of 2015, I worked consistently 30-40 hours a week. Unfortunately, I was spinning my wheels for the most part.
Very few of the posts I wrote in that time period are now my top performers because I really didn’t have a plan for them. Some of them just plain don’t fit into my current content strategy and most of them certainly weren’t tied to any sort of monetization method.
Once I upped my knowledge and figured out what worked for me and what didn’t, I was able to scale back my work hours and get way better results. Now I’ve settled on a schedule of working approximately 4-5 hours a day 5-6 days a week. Most of my hours right now are worked in the evening, between the hours of 8:30 and 1. I can usually squeeze in a little bit of work while I drink my morning coffee and during my 4-year-old’s quiet time. Sometimes I take a break in the middle of my evening work session to watch a show with my husband….it all evens out like I said to nearly 5 hours total per day, 6 days a week. So I work about 25-30 total hours per week now to maintain my blog and continue to build it up.
I have been getting a bit stressed out lately trying to balance everything I want to get done with my actual availability. So I’ve decided to ask my nanny to come back in June to watch my son 2 days a week. I hope to move most of my weekly work time to those two days with a few hours here and there in addition to that. I don’t really plan on working more overall, but I just wanna attain a better (more realistic) balance. I can’t keep up the nightly work schedule like I have been doing for the past year. It doesn’t really allow for any downtime or heaven forbid, sickness! I really got myself in a bind a few weeks ago when I got sick and didn’t take time off to get better. I ended up getting severely sick and was forced to take it easy for a couple weeks. Now that I’m better, I’m being smarter about all of this.
What I Spend My Blog Working Time On
There are a handful of things I do every day for my blog that I think would be cool to cover:
- Check email – I get about 50-100 blogging-related emails a day from fans, sponsors, newsletters I subscribe to, affiliate partners, spammers, etc. I try to stay on top of this throughout the day because if I don’t, it can get real bad real fast. Someone told me about a program called Active Inbox that filters your email to help you prioritize…I think I need to get that.
- Once per day, I review which of my pins are being repinned on Pinterest and repin them myself if I haven’t pinned them in a while (I pin to one board, then schedule out more repins of the same pin over several weeks).
- I work inside of Pinterest for about 20 minutes –I used to schedule out a week’s worth of pins at a time (about 20-25 a day, some my own, some from others) across my boards, but I find that I prefer to work on Pinterest about 20 minutes a day so it doesn’t feel so cumbersome. When I go into Pinterest to repin some of my hot pins of the moment, I will also look around and in real time pin any related pins from other pinners that look good. I figure since Pinterest likes to show me pins related to my own, it’s only a good thing if I pin related pins because then my pin may be shown when someone looks at that image. Don’t quote me on this – I made up that strategy!
- If I published a new post, I go through my blog and find at least 4 related posts to link it up to. I go to the bottom of the related post and insert the hyperlinked image to my new post OR mention it organically somewhere within the post when possible. I also do the reverse and make sure all of my new posts link out to several other posts, monetized ones whenever possible.
- Check Google Analytics – Every day I review the prior day’s total page views and glance through the top 100 posts of the day. Doing this consistently every day allows me to gain insights on what’s working and which posts did better one day vs another. It also allows me to see how my posts are affecting one another through my related posts strategy. I also *may* have a slight addiction to checking real time Google Analytics throughout the day. Because I have this weird nerdy obsession with analytics, I do know some odd facts like this is what your real-time traffic from the U.S. / worldwide might look like on Thanksgiving Day. (I wish I had never checked!) And yes, I have a ton of screenshots like these saved on my computer. LOL
- Share on Instagram once and curate a few pieces of content to share on Facebook when it fits into my day. I have an organic growth approach to these accounts. Since I don’t quite “get” them yet but I need them for sponsored post applications, I keep them active. But I haven’t decided on a specific strategy to this day on either one.
- Listen to a podcast or read a helpful post – I mentioned this before….I do this without fail every single day either during carpool or quiet time.
- Brainstorm – Because I don’t have a lot of time during the day to work on the blog, I have to be strategic and intentional. I do a lot of planning on paper when I’m away from the computer. Whether it’s an outline for a new post or a list of posts that would fit into an affiliate strategy, I am constantly tweaking my to do list. I have literally 30 notebooks/folders in my office full of ideas. I think brainstorming is probably my biggest strength AND downfall. 🙂
What I do NOT do:
- Pin for pin or other reciprocation threads. I used to do this and felt like it was mostly a waste of time when you consider I could be spending that 30 minutes drafting up a new post. Occasionally I will give my VA a pin to throw into a couple of these threads when I feel like it could use a boost (usually when it’s already doing well and I want to see if I can get more eyes on it).
- Comment on other blogs (unless I really feel like it) – I love networking with others by commenting on their blogs when they’ve written something I can identify with, but I don’t participate in those comment for comment threads anymore. I think there are way better ways to spend your time online. For results, Pinterest is a much better time investment right now.
- Twitter – I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I don’t like it because it’s so fast moving and I can’t “save” things like I can on other platforms. I don’t like knowing that the life of my tweets are so short….I probably could get more sponsors if I was into Twitter, but after all this time I don’t think it’s gonna happen. 🙁 I did get into Instagram finally in October 2015, and I’m really liking it so far! I’m a bit of a late adopter on the social media front. I prefer to let everyone else do all the testing and then just tell me what to do. There’s not a lot of reinventing the wheel going on over here! 🙂
Comparison of Top 10 Post Rankings vs Post Length
I have been asked if I think post length plays into success. I will say that hands down, detailed posts are the ones that convert affiliate offers the best. Also, the ones that do best in organic search are longer. But which posts are most popular aren’t necessarily tied to length because of Pinterest (and Facebook, but I haven’t really gotten into Facebook much yet). The appeal of your posts on a variety of social media platforms plays a big part in traffic numbers.
I have a lot of seasonal posts related to Christmas and Valentine’s Day, and quite a few of those are printables, which don’t require you to write a whole lot. Because those are big holidays, those posts get a lot of traffic just because there’s a lot of demand. That, and I spend a lot of time researching keywords for my printable posts because they are cut & dry, which is perfect for getting organic search traffic. People love to search for “free printable” everything!
So let’s take a look at my top 10 posts (traffic-wise) in 2015 by post length (I’m not going to identify the post names because I am not willing to divulge this information – I consider it proprietary to my blog and I have to draw the line somewhere!) However, I will give you a little bit of insight into why I think each one does so well for me.
- 1800 words – This post has multiple Pinterest images (I’ve added them over time) and it’s in a less saturated niche. I have found that adding more than one pinnable image to your best posts is a great time investment.
- 354 words – highly keyworded and a bright image that really catches your eye in Pinterest search results
- 877 words – unique & seasonal to springtime
- 701 words – seasonal printables
- 369 words – holiday themed (Christmas)
- 615 words – holiday themed (Valentine’s Day)
- 760 words – I wrote this one specifically to capture trending search traffic on Pinterest….and it worked!
- 153 words – printable I linked to within #2
- 1635 words – did very well primarily on Pinterest
- 3375 words – very detailed, old post
2015 By the Numbers
So ya’ll probably figured out by now that I am a total numbers junkie. I can’t write a 2015 blog recap without including lots of numbers!
Here’s a look at my page views for the year…it’s the same as the chart above but with traffic numbers shown:
Revenue per Thousand Visitors
In April, I started tracking revenue per thousand visitors because I wanted a way to gauge the overall value of the traffic coming to my site.
From April – December, revenue per thousand ranged from $12.52 – $36.92 with the average being just under $20 ($19.60 CPM).
I had three revenue streams for most of the year (I added the ebook into the mix in mid-December) so the annual average revenue per thousand primarily consists of revenue from ads, sponsored posts, and affiliate offers. My ebook launched on December 16, 2015, and I was able to net just over $2,000 from sales of the ebook before year end, which I am super pleased with.
If you look at the traffic chart above, you will see where I finally started figuring a lot of things out about what works for me and where I should focus my energy. Do you see it? It was right around August/September. That’s when I had enough traffic and income data from the entire summer leading up to that point to analyze and make smarter decisions on where to focus. My monthly income path over the year follows a similar trend.
Making Money from a Blog
If you’re new to blogging it might be about as clear as mud how bloggers are making a significant income. I wrote a short primer for beginners on 7 different ways I make money from my blog. I think it’s a good overview of the general way this all works.
There are so many ways to make money online, and my first three recommendations for any blogger are ad networks, sponsored posts, and affiliate programs. Once you get comfortable bringing people to your blog and selling other people’s stuff, then your own products are a great addition.
I don’t normally recommend anyone start off by offering their own product. In my mind, if you are good at getting traffic to your blog, then you can convert those visitors into revenue in many ways. If you can’t get visitors to your blog on demand, then your time is best spent trying to figure out that system versus creating your own product.
Because if you create a product that nobody really sees, it’s hard to see the rewards of your hard work. I know a lot of people will probably disagree with me on this, but it’s the way I would recommend anyone approach the business of blogging. When you have multiple streams of income AND have the ability to generate traffic, that is when you can really scale your income.
Now that I have a handle on traffic generation, I can choose how I will monetize each post. I can turn on ads if I want easy income. I can promote one of my 20 core affiliate products or my own ebook and I can choose to turn off ads to increase the likelihood of converting visitors into buyers on a time-sensitive offer.
In the end, sadly enough, it’s really a numbers game. After seeing over 3 million page view sessions on my blog, I can confidently say that a 1% (maybe 2%) conversion rate is pretty standard for most affiliate offers. It can be more or less depending on how spot-on your monetization method is to the topic of the post, but 1% on average is what I have come to expect. That means for every 100 people that come to a monetized post for a particular reason (like someone looking for printable coupons), only 1 of them will take action.
Revenue Streams Breakdown
Advertising – 48%
Ads are the number one way I monetized my blog in 2015. I worked quite a bit on figuring out the best types of ad formats and colors to use, where to place them, and what mix of cost-per-click and display advertising works best for my blog.
I used to be primarily with AdSense, but I realized at some point that my revenue per thousand wasn’t the best, and I wanted to join one of the larger managed ad networks so badly…..but nobody would take me because my page views were too low! Talk about feeling rejected! I had worked so hard on this blog, only to find out that I was still small beans and basically on my own until my blog got bigger. :/
After looking for months, I finally moved over to Media.net upon the recommendation of another blogger I trust. He said they were excellent at maximizing revenue, and I can say now that I 100% agree. I started having nearly weekly conference calls with them in September and October, and over that time frame we tested several different ad sizes and types and many different placements to come up with the mix you see today.
At the time, I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t qualify for the ad networks I wanted, but in hindsight it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Because I have been so hands on in optimizing my ads, I feel confident that I know what I’m doing and am confident making my own decisions on advertising options going forward. Of course, now I do feel a *tiny* bit of satisfaction when I have to turn down requests to ditch Media.net for another network. :=) Sorry dudes, I found a mix I like and I’m sticking to it!
I have more details about my dealings with Media.net on my Recommended Resources page. Media.net has been great for me because I like having a say-so in every aspect of my ad blocks plus control over my ads. I don’t think I would do well with a company who had the ability to do whatever they want to my ads. Media.net optimizes my ads for maximum revenue and they help me determine the best design and placement, but it’s 100% up to me to activate them on my blog. I use a plugin called Ad Inserter to do this. It’s pretty simple to do. I have take the code Media.net provides and paste it directly into Ad Inserter, then specific where I want each code snippet to appear. We have three blocks within my posts and one on the side (which I place with a widget).
In addition to Media.net, over time I added a couple of Amazon CPM ads on my page as well as a leaderboard ad (top of page) from Sovrn. I have 6 total ad placements and see approximately $8-10 CPM per day. Put in other words, this means on a day when I receive 10,000 page views, I make roughly $80-100 that day in total advertising revenue. Sometimes the CPM dips and sometimes it spikes, but that has been the overall return over the past 6 months, week after week. I am happy with that return, so I am keeping the mix the same until something changes. The reliability of this CPM is nice because I know that all I have to do to earn more is A) write the same mix of content I already have and B) increase my page views.
Sponsored Posts – 30%
Over the course of the year I worked with many different types of agencies to earn revenue. In my post Recommend Blogging Resources, I cover the major sponsored post networks I work with. I get all of my sponsored work through networks. I know many bloggers who pitch brands directly, but that’s not something I’m very interested in doing just now.
You may be wondering at what point I started seeing more sponsored posts come in. I remember at around 25,000 to 35,000 page views I started being able to qualify for sponsored posts through Moms Affiliate (now called Social Spark, I believe). I was a member of CleverGirls, Massive Sway, and Tap Influence for a very long time before I ever saw anything from them. IZEA was my highest paying network overall by a long shot, earning me roughly one third of my sponsored post income.
I’d say 50,000 to 75,000 and again at 100,000+ monthly page views were tipping points for me. At around 75,000 I was able to get as many posts as I wanted for $50-$100 each and then at 100,000 page views I was able to get as many as I could handle for $100-175 each. At around 300,000 page views the tides really turned. I was able to get more than enough sponsored posts for $300-$400 each AND I was simultaneously getting much better at affiliate marketing, so it became a constant battle between taking the easy money up front versus working on my affiliate strategy for bigger long term returns.
For the most part, I have stepped back from sponsored posts except when my sister wants some work. We kind of use it now as an income stream just for her – I can get posts whenever I want them, and then she can help me with them for a cut of the proceeds. Right now, she goes to the stores (if necessary) and writes the content, and I take the pictures, publish the posts, and do social media shares. I’m slowly teaching her everything she needs to do them 100% on her own, and I plan on letting her completely take over this side of my blog business one day.
Affiliate Offers – 15%
Affiliate income is something I grew steadily throughout the year. As of the end of 2015, I had around 20 affiliate offers promoted around the blog, and I am finding that I really like this income stream the better I get at doing it. In 2016, I hope to see affiliate income surpass advertising income as my #1 income stream.
I really started to understand affiliate marketing late in 2015, and that’s when I started purposely turning down sponsored posts so I could focus on affiliate monetized content. I’m starting to see the fruits of my labor, but that’s to come in a future income report.
My Ebook – 7%
Along with affiliate offers, I hope to see income from my own products surpass sponsored posts by far in 2016. I am very hopeful for this goal because I am consistently focusing on my ebook and another course I hope to release later this year on affiliate marketing to boost my overall blog income.
I find that promoting my own product and promoting affiliate offers involve essentially the same overall process, so if I can figure out one I should be able to figure out the other. Ebook and affiliate offers take much less traffic to convert because the traffic is so targeted, so I am excited about that. I used to think I’d need 1 million page views a month to make $10,000 a month, but I no longer believe that’s the case. Stay tuned for more on this in future income reports!
Thoughts on 2016
As I went into 2016, I was able to look at the entire year and take away nuggets of wisdom from that journey and I’m happy to say my average income is trending up despite a significant traffic dip after Valentine’s Day (just like last year). My baseline traffic and income for late Winter / Spring 2016 is now the October / November scenario from the chart above ($5,000-$7,500 on 300-350K page views) and now the highs are spiking above the highest point in 2015. And we’re nowhere near a holiday I focus on so I’m extremely pleased with this.
I have almost as many page views for the first 4.5 months of 2016 (1.5 million) that I had in all of 2015 with more advanced monetization strategies in place, and I think I am track to have a $90,000+ year. 2016 is turning out to be a very promising year! I feel like all those late nights are starting to pay off!
Services I Couldn’t Operate My Blog Without
As my blog has grown, I have invested along the way in services and products that help it run properly and allow me to do my job. I couldn’t run my blog without these (or an equivalent) and still maintain my sanity. Here’s what I have in my arsenal:
- iMarkInteractive – As my blog grew, I began to experience technical issues that were out of my league. I met Grayson, the guy behind iMarkInteractive (it used to be his side job but now it’s his full time gig) at a blogging conference, and I thought he would be a great person to work with because he A) knows his stuff and B) turns out we live right down the road from each other! Weird, right? We had to go half way across the country to figure that out. As I kept running into one technical issue after another (site exceeding bandwidth too quickly, hackers coming at me, not knowing how to edit code without breaking my site, etc), I kept going back to Grayson and eventually decided to sign up for his blog management service where he’s essentially on retainer to keep my blog running smoothly from a technical standpoint. Now anytime I have something I have no clue how to do, all I need to do is email Grayson and he has my back. His service is soooooo valuable to me! I can’t recommend it enough once you get to the point that your blog is running you instead of the other way around. 🙂
- Servously – I was with Dreamhost for many years and had a really great experience with them, but as my blog grew, I was looking for a more robust solution with excellent customer support. Servously was recommended to me by a blogger I trust, and I am with them now. Actually, I should say I’m with Shauna now. 🙂 Servously is a small company run with Shauna Callaghan and one or two others, and I have to say I’ve been really impressed with the level of one-on-one service I’m getting. Whereas I always felt somewhat like “just a number” with Dreamhost, I now pay a premium price for premium service. I have a direct line to Shauna’s email and access to a private Facebook group where all of her clients can ask one another questions in addition to tagging Shauna. This is not a knock whatsoever on cheaper webhosting companies like Dreamhost or Bluehost. I love that you can start a blog really cheaply with them and continue to grow your blog on a dime, so if you’re reading this and considering starting a blog, I would still recommend a cheaper hosting plan to start. But if you want one-on-one contact like me, you might want to consider Servously. I am on the $45 monthly plan and it should take me up to 2 million page views a month. Totally worth it.
- Akismet – I used to have a massive issue with spam comments. Sometimes I was deleting dozens per day. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I subscribed to Akismet, which filters nearly 100% of the spam comments now.
- Aweber – Aweber is my go-to email marketing solution. I used to be with MailChimp, but honestly I could never understand their interface, so I jumped ship to Aweber a couple years ago and find the system much more simple to understand. I talked to Pat Flynn at a blogging conference late last year about some issues I couldn’t wrap my head around related to having so many categories on my blog and not knowing what to send my mailing list, and he recommended Convert Kit for my growing list due to its segmentation features, so I am considering it. But for now I’m staying put because I feel like I finally figured out how to use Aweber properly (I have autoresponders set up and everything). I was able to set up several different mailing lists in the one account, and I like how they’re all completely separated. It’s easy for me to understand. That, and I’m not up for learning a new software at the moment. J I’m a little bit lazy like that.
- PicMonkey Royale – While I am slowly seeing the beauty of Canva, I have to say I’m a PicMonkey girl! I love how quickly I can create cute graphics from scratch ad resize images in PicMonkey. I use it almost every day. I gladly pay for the Royale upgrade which allows me to use any fonts or overlays in their palette. I think it’s about $3.99 a month or a little bit less for a yearly package and it’s wayyyy worth it!
- Tailwind – I use Tailwind to schedule out all of my Pinterest stuff, and it’s easy to use. I got into more detail about Tailwind in my Recommended Blogging Resources post.
- Plugins – I had originally planned on walking through all of the plugins I use, but honestly I’m getting exhausted writing this post! It’s over 6000 words now. 🙂 If knowing what plugins I use would be helpful to you, would you comment below? If enough people want to know, then I’ll come back and add that info!
What I Wish I Had Known Then
A blogging friend of mine asked if I would cover what I wish I had known at the beginning of 2015 that I know now.
I think this is a nice way to end my 2015 recap…..I would say there are two main things I wish I had known in early 2015 that I knew all too well by the end of the year:
1) Do NOT hesitate to make smart investments in your blog business.
I cannot stress this point enough. If you truly want it to be a business, you should treat it like a business. If you are running a regular business and your office-caliber printer goes out, you probably wouldn’t start taking apart the printer and troubleshoot it on your own. You would call a printer repair guy to come service it. Same thing applies to your blog. Pay for help when you need it and don’t try to figure everything out yourself. Who cares if you can code in html or take great pictures if you can figure out a way to get those things done for you? You need focus to grow your blog, and if you’re focused on something you could easily pay someone else to do or figure out faster if you just had the right knowledge (like a specific course on Instagram or mailing lists), then you’re not working on what you need to be to actually grow. You’re just putting out fires and postponing the real work that needs to be done. In the end if you don’t invest in your blog, you will end up putting a lot of work into something that probably is just a source of frustration.
I didn’t realize this early on, but if your blog does grow substantially you will end up spending money on maintenance anyway OR have to give your life to your blog so you can do it all yourself. In order to absorb the traffic coming my way and make the technical updates I need to keep the blog up and running, I have had to upgrade my hosting, image caching, and hire technical support. In order to deliver my ebook, create images in great quantities, and support my mailing list size, I am now on paid plans for SendOwl, Amazon AWS, Tailwind, CoSchedule & Aweber, and I also routinely invest in packs of high quality images.
The base of my blog can now run without me, which gives me great peace of mind. People can access my printables (Amazon AWS) and buy my ebook (SendOwl), scheduled pins can go live (Tailwind), social media shout outs can be posted (CoSchedule), and my emails can be sent automatically (Aweber). If you don’t invest in solutions at the right stages and try to nickel and dime it along the way, you are either planning on never growing or setting yourself up for a lot of headaches as you grow and find you need to upgrade to better solutions.
2) Action is where it’s at.
They say it’s impossible to beat someone who never quits and it’s so true even in the blogging world! If you keep working, improving, and learning along the way, you will undoubtedly see great results over time.
If what you’re doing doesn’t seem to be producing good enough returns for the effort put in after a while, then you need to do a tough evaluation of your situation and make changes. If you’re not seeing growth after a lot of hard work, something’s wrong. You’re likely doing the wrong things or not enough of the right things.
Don’t get caught up in whether you’re doing things perfectly. Get it done then get it right! I used to spend so much time fretting over my latest blog post – is anyone reading it? Is it good enough? Why isn’t it doing as well as I thought? I would post and then wait. And wait. And wait. When nothing spectacular happened, I would feel defeated. I realize now this was so silly! I was still in the learning phase of my journey! I didn’t know how to craft halfway decent posts, and I certainly couldn’t predict how well a post would do on any particular platform like I can now….things I couldn’t know without a lot of practice. I was sitting around waiting when nothing was ever going to happen. I finally just sucked it up and kept creating content, each piece better than the last in a small way as I learned how to do everything better.
I finally learned that sometimes you just have flops and in a way, it’s a quantity game. Big bloggers have big quantity. The biggest bloggers usually have whole teams behind them. Seeing as I don’t have a team of writers, I have to do what I can do with the time I have. I now know that the worst case scenario if you royally screw up is you’ll have to delete what you did and find out that you wasted a few hours’ worth of work. It won’t be the end of the world. Just get back up and keep trying! Fear of failure is sometimes our worst enemy.
What my blog has enabled me to do
My blog has grown beyond my wildest dreams in the past 18 months. It has enabled me to do things financially that I never dreamed of being able to do as a stay-at-home-mom including:
- Give my sister a job when she needed to bring in some extra money
- Pay cash for a much needed bathroom remodel and a Sleep Number bed (which helped me get rid of neck pain I’ve had for quite some time)
- Top off our primary and secondary savings accounts so I don’t feel nervous about our ability to pay for unexpected expenses
- Hire other stay-at-home-mom bloggers who need to supplement their income as they grow their blogs
- Tithe more to my church! I love knowing my blog allows me to give support to international mission trips, church expenses, local events and more.
And in the process of growing my blog, I’ve met some of the most sincere and lovely people in the world, all virtually! I never truly understood how you can become best friends with someone you’ve never met before, but now I totally understand. I have several blogging friends who I’d say are real friends of mine and I’m just dying to meet them in person! Also the connections I’ve made in person at blog conferences have been amazing. It’s so wonderful to meet someone face to face and then collaborate with them online. It adds a whole other dimension to your work together.
I hope you enjoyed this recap of my journey throughout 2015. Did I leave anything out that you would like to know? Please leave me a comment!
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