Note: This post originally appeared on BreakingTheOnePercent.com in 2018, before we merged DollarSprout and BTOP together.
Today marks 2 months in a row of me posting a monthly income report for our blogs. We had another record month in January. Lesson learned is that it’s easier to talk about how things are going when they’re going well… who would have thought?
Anyway, this report is going to be short and sweet. I have a bunch of other stuff I should be working on right now, but I promised an income report in our Facebook group last week, so I am gonna stick to that.
Doing last month’s income report in Q&A format seemed to be a hit, so I’m going to stick to something similar for this one. I went on a little bit of rant last time about how I’m sick of seeing the same copy-and-pasted income reports each month. I really want to add as much value as I can to these reports, besides just slinging Bluehost (or in our case, Hostgator) links at you.
A quick rundown of January
As you might already know, Ben and I run 3 blogs.
DollarSprout.com (launched October 2017):
VTXCapital.com (This is a personal finance blog that was rebranded into DollarSprout. Eventually we will set up 301 redirects and merge this site with DollarSprout):
I will be the first one to admit, Pinterest is getting harder and harder by the day. It’s still a goldmine for free traffic, but it’s definitely not what it used to be (for us, at least). And I think it’s only going to get harder from here. Just look at what’s happened with Facebook over the years. That’s probably going to happen to Pinterest, too.
With that in mind, our priority for DollarSprout over the next few months is going to be on SEO. More on that later.
Monthly Income Report: $12,372
Even though January was the best income month our business has ever had, the traffic woes were a bit of a downer.
In any case, it’s crazy to look back and see how far we’ve come:
Persistence really does pay off.
What We’ve Been Focusing On
If you are in our Facebook group, you’ve likely heard about our Blogging Resource Giveaway by now.
This has been Ben’s project for the past couple of weeks. Basically, we are giving away free blog stuff every Friday for the next 38 weeks (or something ridiculous like that). Ben has been busy contacting bloggers and course creators, and as of right now we have over $5,000 worth of online resources to give away to you guys.
Obviously, the goal for us here is to increase our email subscriber list and grow our Facebook group. It turns out that helping promote other bloggers (and their products) is a decent way to get that done. Value exchanged for value.
Other things we’ve been focusing on:
SEO for DollarSprout
This is big.
As I said before, the days of easy Pinterest traffic are numbered. As such, Ben and I have been super focused on diversifying our traffic sources with DollarSprout.
SEO (both on-page and off-page) has been a huge priority for us. And now, 4 months after launch, we are slowly starting to see some payoff from it:
Here’s what we’ve done to get these results so far:
- Keyword research (Google this if you aren’t familiar)
- On-page SEO (downloading the Yoast SEO plugin is a good start)
- Link building. Nothing spammy or sleazy. We’ve just been hustling like crazy to get our name out there.
We spent about $1,400 on Facebook ads in January for DollarSprout.
The Facebook page now has just over 5,000 fans, which we are happy with. Since our Pinterest account has so few followers, we wanted to have at least one social media account that we could point sponsors to and say “hey, we aren’t completely clueless.” Even if it’s a vanity metric to an extent, it still matters to potential sponsors.
The good news is that our 5,000 likes are extremely targeted (thanks to Ben’s FB ads wizardry), so our page actually gets really awesome engagement compared to other pages of a similar size.
Moving forward, though, Ben and I have decided to shuffle around our spending a bit. We want to allocate more towards SEO, and the reason is pretty simple: it’s a way better long-term return.
Now, when I say “spend on SEO,” I do not mean directly paying for link placements. That’s against Google’s rules, and we do not want to risk anything with that. This article from Authority Hacker does a great job of explaining what I am trying to accomplish.
Having a handful of highly-converting DollarSprout articles rank on Page 1 of Google is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the blog. Building a system to make that happen is a lot more important than getting DollarSprout to 10k or 100k fans on Facebook.
I don’t have anything valuable to share here. I just know we spent a few days on this and it sucked. Accountants are worth every penny.
Planning Content and More Paid Products
This was the other big focus for me and Ben in January. Stay tuned.
Reader Q & A
Like I said before, last month’s Q&A format seemed to be well received, so we are going to do it again. The questions below are from people in our blogging group on Facebook (which you 100% need to join, if you haven’t already).
Alright, onto the questions!
What is your Facebook ads strategy? How many ads are you running and to what articles?
Ben can probably write a book on this. (He’s the man in charge of running our ads. I pretty much stay out of it).
Since we are shifting our focus away from Facebook ads for the time being, I’ll just hit the highlights.
This was broken up between 15 or so different ads, which means that some performed better than others.
Our basic philosophy is this: If we can get someone to visit an article for 4 cents, but make 3 cents back from a well-monetized article, we are basically growing our Facebook page at a 75% discount.
So, roughly speaking, we gained about 2,000 new likes in January while recouping about 75%-ish of our ad spend ($1,378). That means we effectively “paid” $344 for 2,ooo targeted page likes. Not bad.
The big takeaway here is that it’s really important, especially when running Facebook ads, to understand your average revenue per pageview on a specific article (you can accomplish this via affiliate sub ID tracking, which I discuss in this income report).
Note: I understand it may seem “inhumane” to look at pageviews with such a commoditized perspective. The truth is, you can deeply care about your readers while at the same time putting together very structured data about them. The two are not mutually exclusive.
What are your highest-converting offers?
Our highest-converting affiliate offers in the personal finance niche are the ones with the lowest barriers to entry (meaning, we don’t try to sell big-ticket items).
For us, that often means promoting affiliates that are just looking for lead generation (like an email opt-in) or some other very small action.
The below diagram is from my article on how to make your first $1,000 blogging, which I highly recommend you read (it’s probably the best post on this website):
How well does your Google traffic do for affiliate conversions?
Much better than Pinterest or Facebook. It’s not even close.
People coming to your site via search engines have what’s called “search intent.” That means they are actively looking for the exact content that is on your blog.
They didn’t just stumble across a pin or a Facebook post that caught their eye. They aren’t passive readers.
They want what you’ve got.
Without crunching all the numbers from our different affiliates/articles/traffic sources (takes too long), I would reasonably estimate that Google traffic converts at least twice as well, if not more. There’s a reason that advertising with Google AdWords is so expensive, even though Facebook’s demographic targeting capabilities are so much better — it’s all about search intent.
Which is another reason why Ben and I are so focused on SEO for DollarSprout.
Where does the majority of your blog income come from?
Here’s what it looked like in January (the exact split varies from month to month):
Affiliate marketing: $9,107
Display Advertising: $1,535
Course sales (after affiliate payouts): $1,400
Sponsored Posts: $0
Total Revenue: $12,372
You can dig around some of our other income reports to find the exact affiliates (or just look at our websites), but chances are, your blog and your audience will demand something much different than ours. So there’s really not much use in me hashing out each individual affiliate here.
What is the best way to monetize your blog besides Amazon affiliate links?
We do almost zero Amazon stuff. 4% commission is tough to make a living off of, for us at least. I know a lot of people are crushing it with Amazon, but that is not us.
Here’s what has worked well for me and Ben:
- First, learn how to write content people want to read (sounds easy, but it’s not).
- Learn the skill of building traffic.
- Start with low-threshold affiliate marketing, as described earlier.
- Experiment with promoting bigger-ticket affiliate offers.
- Create and sell your own products.
Do you base a post off of an affiliate you want to target or is it based on a topic and then you find affiliates to use?
We actually do both.
Generally speaking, the latter performs better. I think it’s because a reader can pick and choose between options that they feel benefit them the most (rather than having to sell them on one exact affiliate).
What is your traffic breakdown (Search vs. Social) for each site?
What is the point of me sharing all this stuff?
For people who follow us that are already bloggers, I hope you can actually learn something useful from what we’re doing and take it and apply it to your own blog.
Ben and I definitely don’t have all the answers, but we’ve learned a good bit of stuff worth sharing along the way.
And for anyone reading this that is thinking about starting a blog:
More than anything else, I want this monthly income report to inspire you.
This blogging thing is real. In the last 60 days, we’ve made over $24,000 online (revenue), which still feels insane to me. I kinda can’t believe it’s actually happening, to be honest. We spent a lot of months at $0 income, and there was a long time where I doubted if we could ever make it work.
At the same time, there is a massive amount of work that goes into this, and I hope that these types of posts help get that point across.
That’s the funny thing about blogging — it’s so easy for anyone to start a blog. The hard part comes once you have everything set up.
That being said, blogging is awesome.
I wrote this post in a cafe on a Monday morning (when everyone else in town was driving to a job they dread).
The rest of the day was spent learning and hanging out with other bloggers.
It’s about 7pm now. I just checked in on our different affiliate dashboards and I see that we’ve already made over $250 today.
I haven’t had to answer to a boss, I get to work on something that I want to work on, and I have complete freedom to choose when I work.
Whether I work 12, 14, or 16 hours a day is completely up to me. (See what I did there? It’s still a lot of work!)
If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog (even if you just want to make some side income), I recommend getting started sooner rather than later. It’s going to take time to learn everything, but we all have to start somewhere…
….and starting is the most important step.