My First Year Of Blogging (Lessons Learned And How I Made $2000)
It’s really hard to believe that it has already been 1 whole year since I committed myself to this blog! I started out in late September 2016 so in fact it’s not really a 12 months report, but more like a 13–14 months. But life has been quite busy the past few weeks/months and I’ve been meaning to write this post for about 2 months now. If you’ve been following me for quite some time, this is actually the third report of the kind I’m publishing, with the last one being about my first six months as a blogger.
This blog started as a way to be a platform for me to memorialize my thoughts on personal finance related topics. It has actually been interesting looking back on some of the posts I have put out over the past year. My last blogging report had great success so I decided to renew this experience once again!
My biggest takeaway from the last couple months is that in the blogging world, patience is really the key. You have to understand that things don’t just happen overnight. I know that I still has a long way to go to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other awesome personal finance bloggers out there but it’s all part of the journey of starting a blog. I still believe that blogging is the ultimate side hustle and that it is something that anyone can do as it’s one of the cheapest online business which you can start.
- Related: How To Start A Blog On Bluehost
This post is quite a long one because I will detail everything related to my first 12 months of blogging, like the lessons learned, the technical improvements made to Finance For Geek, but also all the details regarding the traffic statistics as well as my social media growth. Oh and of course you’ll learn how much money I made here!
I’m so glad I finally started and I’m really looking forward to my next months (years!) of blogging. But first let’s take a look back over my first 12 (ok that’s in fact 13) months and see what has been done on this blog and how it went. Let’s start shall we?
Top Lessons Learned
Blogging is hard and there’s no right way to do it
Even being only a part-time blogger requires a lot of effort. There are so many different ways to blog and, of course, there are people who’ll tell you their way is the right way. But none of that matters as the key is to find your own *voice*.
My writing has improved significantly
As English is not my native language, at first I thought this would be the hardest part. But it turns out that it’s not that hard even if looking back to my old posts, I continue to find all sorts of grammatical errors and awkward sentences!
I met so many nice people
Especially on Twitter where you can interact easily with so many people. I’m still impressed everyday by the quality of personal finance blogs out there and their authors are some of the most friendly people I’ve met on the Internet.
Consistency pays off, so be in it for the long term
At first when you start a blog, it sometimes feels kind of *lonely* out there, and I have sometimes been wondering why I spent so much of my free time doing all of this. But then traffic started to come and increased greatly and I must say that seeing progress month over month is such a satisfying feeling!
Create goals and strategies related to those goals
This is something I’ve been doing my whole life, as I’m kind of a goals-oriented person. I read so many posts on personal finance blogs where people simply state “I want to have 10k pageviews by next month”. But the real goal is not when you’ll have it but how! Having proper strategies tailored specifically for your goals is the key to reaching those goals.
- Related: 2017 Goals Update — May & June
During the past six months, I managed to publish 22 posts on Finance For Geek, which is around what I expected to be able to produce. As explained in my Goals For 2017 post, I’m targeting at least one post every ten days on average for 2017. For the last three months (August to October) it was a bit slower than usual as we had a long six-week vacation trip in Europe, and also because we relocated by car to Vancouver (took us around three weeks), thus leading to many days without having access to Internet (which is a nice thing sometimes!). Anyway, I’m still happy with how I managed to keep this blog active even with so many different life events happening at the same time.
New articles published on Finance For Geek during the period ranging from April to October 2017 (with links and word count):
- 5 Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund — 1,322 words
- Why Investing on Your Own May Not Be Your Best Option — 658 words
- Financial Report Update — March 2017 — Net Worth $18,374 (+10.6%) — 1,798 words
- My First 6 Months of Blogging (And How I Already Made Some Money!) — 2,365 words
- 2017 Goals Update — March & April — 1,705 words
- Financial Report Update — April 2017 — Net Worth $20,585 (+12.0%) — 1,996 words
- Mylo Review — Automate Your Savings and Achieve Your Financial Goals — 1,891 words
- Grow Your Blog With Branded Short URLs — 2,066 words
- Financial Report Update — May 2017 — Net Worth $24,762 (+20.3%) — 2,320 words
- Creating A Budget — Four Facts Before Taking A Leap — 746 words
- 8 Money Lessons You Should Know Before Your 30s — 1,626 words
- Drop App Review — Supercharge Your Savings — 1,177 words
- Financial Report Update — June 2017 — Net Worth $27,653 (+11.7%) — 1,716 words
- 2017 Goals Update — May & June — 1,800 words
- 40+ Websites That Pay You To Refer a Friend — 2,900 words
- Having Fun Economically — Four Ways To Save On Leisure — 689 words
- Financial Report Update — July 2017 — Net Worth $28,660 (+3.65%) — 1,598 words
- Are Dividend Stocks Better Than Bonds For Retirement — 910 words
- What You Should Do If You’re Unhappy with Your Career? — 1,041 words
- Financial Report Update — August 2017 — Net Worth $29,272 (+2.2%) — 1,757 words
- My Plan For Paying Down Student Loan Debt Early — 1,153 words
- How To Trick Your Brain Into Saving Money — 1,241 words
This adds up to a total of 32,081 words written for these past six months.
If we add my first six months of blogging (where I had 34,073 words written) this adds up to a total of 66,154 words written for a total of 42 articles published for my first year blogging!
On my first six months blogging report, I stated that I’ve noticed that I still spend way too much time on technical aspects and how this might be due to the fact that I can’t seem to be satisfied with stuff half-done. Once again, even if I’d say that I successfully achieved my goal of one post every ten days, even six months later I still find myself having the same problem, which is that I tend to be perfectionist and sometimes ends up spending 3–4 hours on kind of *insignificant* stuff.
Regarding my posting schedules I’ve decided to stick to a schedule of one post every ten days, as it seems that’s easy for me to stick to it, and I’ll publish some posts in between when I feel it’s necessary. With my new upcoming job and with our recent relocation, it could get hard for me to publish more than that and I definitely prefer quality over quantity.
Overall I’m quite satisfied with the blog at the moment, and I just need to produce some more interesting content for my readers. I have like 25+ posts ideas and 50+ feature improvement ideas for this blog, which is a nice thing because at first I thought it would be harder to find new relevant content once some months have passed. I just have to remember that blogging requires hard work and dedication.
Blogging is definitely long-term and it’s slowly starting to pay off here in terms of traffic and also when I see the money I’m making (I just reached $2,500 of income with this blog). While having still so many ways to improve my blog and help my audience, the future looks promising and I can’t wait to look back in a couple of months to see what happened.
Over the last 12 months I’ve implemented many technical features in order to improve my blog, both to learn how to implement these features and because these features help a lot in improving your rankings for organic traffic.
At first, I chose to implement HTTPs early on, as well as Facebook Instant Article and Accelerated Mobile Pages. It seems that it has paid off nicely as my traffic started to increase a lot after all of this was setup properly. It’s even more important than ever since this summer as Twitter is now also offering AMP pages natively within the App, whereas before it was limited to Google search results only.
A few months ago I also chose to implement my own custom short branded domain (ffgeek.co). For those unaware of this feature, this is called a domain hack or also sometimes referred to as a vanity URL, and it’s often done by combining the brand name and a domain TLD (Top-level domain) to cleverly spell a brand name. Its main purpose is to improve brand recognition among your audience and to facilitate the ease of sharing on social platforms.
It also allows websites with long URL to shorten them easily. It’s not specifically useful on Facebook as you’re not limited by the number of characters but it’s a lot more on Twitter where the character count is limited to 140 (not the case anymore since November 2017 as they changed it to 280!).
Here’s what branded short URL looks like on Finance For Geek Facebook page for example.
I’ve also finished to implement Rich Snippets and Rating for some of my review-type posts. For those wondering it’s a better and enhanced snippet for search results in Google. You might already have seen this sometimes with ratings and / or *jump to* links. That’s a bit overkill one might say but I think that it’s much better that way and also my rankings improved greatly since implementing it.
Finally, I’ve also adjusted the breadcrumbs appearance on search results to remove the post slug and to include the category instead, because I find it’s more clean that way. And of course a lot of not noticeable features and some adjustments to the theme/css to look more professional.
By the way, if you have any comments or suggestions on my theme or design feel free to comment I’d love to have some new feedback!
Now onto the juicy statistics a lot of people are fond of (including myself!).
This is based on the period ranging from May to October 2017 (which is the date of my blog 1st year anniversary).
Overall, it is much better than the previous period, and I’ve finally succeeded to reach my goal of 5,000 pageviews per month (3.8k for September, 6.9k pageviews for October and at the time of writing this post I already had 5.2k pageviews for November).
- Direct: 10.85% (was 36.49%)
- Social: 7.53% (was 23.69%)
- Referral: 11.67% (was 14.60%)
- Organic: 71.23% (was 19.01%)
- Other: 0.91% (was 3.84%)
- Email: 0.66% (was 1.29%)
Comparison between May 1st 2017 — October 31st 2017 and October 31st 2016 — April 30th 2017:
As can be seen from these results, the little details that I thought were insignificant at first (like SEO optimization and a clean design) were in fact totally significant and helped me tremendously growing my blog to where it is today. I’ve had a HUGE boost in traffic and specifically organic traffic (aka traffic coming from search engines). It’s also been pretty consistent for the past 4+ months now. It accounts for around 70% of my daily traffic which comes from search engines (Google, Yandex & Bing) with the rest being referral, social and direct traffic.
I still consider that my referral and social traffic types are too low. This is directly linked to the fact that I was not that active on social media and other blogs the past few months. So this is one main thing I plan on improving in the next upcoming weeks. I had some success since implementing Social Warfare Pro and using Boardbooster a few months ago as I had some posts being shared A LOT, which helped for the referral and social traffic, but still not enough in my mind!
Anyhow, it’s nice seeing the two graphs comparing both six month period and we can see the overall percentage increase is greatly encouraging!
I’ve noticed recently that the average session duration has decreased and the average page per visit also, which might be due to the fact that the metric I’m comparing it with seemed high in the first place, these ones seem more like a good average. Bounce Rate has also slightly decreased but I think that it’s still way too high (around 80%).
I’m really satisfied with my progression so far this year, and I’m aiming for around 45k pageviews total by the end of the year and hopefully at least a steady 6k pageviews per month soon with a short-term goal of 10k pageviews per month in early 2018.
Social Media Growth
Regarding Social Media, my main focus for the last six months was on Twitter. Since creating my profile I’ve grown it to 1,700+ followers. I’ve been much less active on Google+ and Facebook, as my focus was on Twitter & Pinterest. So I definitely need to step up my Google+ and Facebook game and be more active on those two platforms.
I’ve started being more engaging with other people’s content. On Twitter this meant liking, retweeting and responding to posts. I also occasionally shared blog posts of other people. However, as I’ve quickly noticed that I can’t focus on everything at once and decided to start with Twitter, I’ve stopped doing this on Facebook at the moment (except for my own posts). I do think it was a successful growth strategy!
One thing I noticed, is that while it’s definitely interesting to learn all the ins and outs of, let’s say Pinterest and Google+, it is also way too much time consuming. I’ve spent literally hours reading some articles on social media management, because I really enjoy this! The downside is that I’ve also learned the hard way that it seems impossible to grow all of them in parallel.
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Below is the breakdown of my social media growth since my last blog report (which was around April). As explained earlier, even if I had *some* success on social media, there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement here and I’m trying to catch up on it in order to improve this side of blogging to drive more traffic to Finance For Geek.
- Facebook — 116 page likes (728% increase from 14)
- Twitter — 1,700 followers (191% increase from 583)
- Google+ — 24 followers (300% increase from 6)
- Pinterest — 1,039 followers (125% increase from 460)
- Email List — 110 subscribers (175% increase from 40)
Finally I’m also glad I implemented Facebook Instant Articles and Accelerated Mobile Pages (which are now also available for Twitter!) because I had many readers asking for feedback on how to implement it after noticing it here and telling me that it was a really cool feature that they don’t see that much often. My geek-side was obviously pretty happy about that 🙂
Okay, I’m sure a lot of you just skipped down to this section because all you care about are numbers! Although I did not start this blog with monetization in mind, I’ve chosen to implement some monetization techniques here from day one. At first I did this mainly in order to recoup from the expenses I had from web hosting and buying plugins. Also this was a great way for me to try new things, and as I’m only promoting products that I already use and love I think that it’s a win-win!
But since a few months already, what started as only a few bucks each month, quickly piled up and added to $500+ per month (and still growing each month). My main monetization technique is affiliate marketing, like when I’m promoting Wealthsimple which is one of the best product I recommend (already 40+ readers have started investing with them thanks to my detailed review to start investing with Wealthsimple and got a cool $50 bonus). I also make some money with Facebook Audience Network ads for my Facebook posts, as well as Google AdSense on my posts and sidebar. I’m also promoting some Amazon products, like the books I’ve been reading recently, as I’m part of the Amazon Associates program, but that’s only a little part of the equation.
If you are interested in starting a side hustle and specifically starting your own blog check out my step-by-step tutorial to get started in 15 minutes. Starting a blog was the best decision I ever made, and what started as earning a couple dollars here and there has now turned into a couple hundred dollars each month!
Here is the breakdown of my income since I started monetizing this blog (which was early January). Keep in mind that this is for income which was earned during this period, but not necessarily paid out yet (all amounts are in USD or converted to USD for the sake of simplicity). Also, you’ll see listed November 2017 but the month is not complete yet so that’s why you see a decrease in pageviews at the moment, because I’m on track for another great month!
I’ve chosen to detail on the following table the pageviews, revenue earned and RPM for each month since launching this blog. I’m also including the % change of pageviews from month to month. For those who do not know what is RPM:
RPM is a metric to track revenue per thousand pageviews. This is a measure of the overall effectiveness of a blog and is a handy benchmark for comparing blogs even if they have vastly different traffic numbers.
Let’s break the revenue down a bit more so you can see what went into making $2,500.
Affiliate Income — $2,135
This is the money that I made directly from the blog and I must say that the last couple of months were incredible for Finance For Geek! Still nothing too fancy to brag about, and I did not start this website with monetization in mind, but what’s better than getting paid for doing something that you love, even more when it can help you reach financial independence faster!
Display Advertising Income — $81
This category of income includes:
- Google AdSense (on my posts / sidebar)
- MyFinance (the widget recommended posts at the bottom of my posts)
- Facebook Network Audience (only on my Facebook Instant Articles)
I’m still using Google AdSense and Facebook Ads for the ads displayed on Finance For Geek, and I must say that I’m not impressed at all with their revenue. Even if my pageviews are not that impressive, I would have hoped for a better ROI for displaying ads!
But it seems that once I reach some thresholds (25k pageviews per month and then 100k pageviews per month) it is way more profitable to switch to another ad network, like Mediavine or Adthrive. We’ll see how it goes and hopefully I will be able to reach 25k per month soon enough to try those new network ads.
Sponsorship Income — $218
Total Income — $2,434
I’ve once again decided to keep all of this blog income and put it back directly into the website to improve it and I might start getting serious with ads like Facebook ads in the next few weeks (ok more like early 2018). I’ve just started it this past month, but I’ve kind of noticed that if you’re not structured it seems like throwing money out the window. Also, I’m starting to find that my website speed is not quite optimal and some pages are even quite slow to load so I might switch to a dedicated hosting in a couple of months if my traffic keeps increasing in a steady way.
Regarding what was spent during these last 12 months, the majority of it comes from my web hosting which I paid in advance for two years. I also bought Social Warfare and X Theme while setting up this website initially, thus my expenses have been quite low for the past 12 months (all amounts are in USD):
- Paid Advertising — $45 (I’ve just tried some ads on Facebook, nothing really fancy at the moment)
- BoardBooster — $30 (that’s an automation service for Pinterest to automate my pin schedule)
- Bluehost — $220 (two years prepaid for blog hosting)
- X Theme — $59 (this is the awesome theme I’m using here on Finance For Geek!)
- Social Warfare — $29 (one of the best social sharing plugins out there)
Starting a blog is definitely something which everyone can do at a cheap cost, and even more this week (Hello Black Friday!). Enjoy a limited special promo for Finance For Geek readers on Bluehost where you get to start a blog for as low $2.65 per month (only available until Monday, November 27th at 11:59PM).
Total Expenses — $383
Total Revenue — $2,051
Without a doubt, the last six months were awesome and I learned so much while blogging about personal finance related stuff. I also made some great friends in the blogging world. I know that this is just the start of great things to come so I’m very excited about the next months!
That’s also why I’ve set myself some goals for the next upcoming months (I’d say for mid-2018), and I intend to reach all of them!
- Grow blog traffic to 10,000 monthly pageviews
- Reach $1,000 per month in blog income
- Increase my Pinterest followers to 3,000
- Increase my Twitter followers to 3,000
- Grow Facebook page to 500 likes
- Grow email list to 250 subscribers
- Keep a steady blog schedule of one post per week
I’ve noticed that when I define my goals and create strategies around them, they succeed (ok most of the time). I can’t just stay here hoping that my goals are indeed reachable. I have to make and create strategies to reach these goals, because
“Goals creates the vision, strategy creates the results.”
Like for example my goal of 10,000 pageviews a month, there needs to be a concrete strategy around that goal. For example, I could share 3 times a day on Facebook, send out weekly emails and schedule daily pins on Pinterest. This is a topic for another day, as I’m still defining those specific strategies (more to come in an upcoming post!), but I just wanted you to know that I’ve not chosen those goals out of thin air and that I’m definitely planning on reaching every single one of them, it’s not a matter of *if* but a matter of *when* I’ll reach them.
So this was my first year bloganniversary report, I hope you liked it!
If you made it this far then this must be that you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it, so THANKS A LOT! Those are the lessons I’ve learned since starting Finance For Geek. I have so much more to share so make sure to check back each month. I look forward to sharing more of my personal finance tips and advice with you.
As always feel free to reach out to me for anything! Whether it’s about contributing here, or if you have any tips or resources that you’d like to share, I’d love to be a part of it.
So that’s how went my first whole year of blogging! What about you, any interesting metrics to share? Let us know in the comments!
Originally published at financeforgeek.com on November 24, 2017.