Finance Blog Income Report - 6 Months Down
June 17, 2021. That’s the day I bought my domain, built my site and published my first (admittedly pretty rough) blog post. Turns out, blogging is serious business. The amount of learning, reading, listening, watching and writing it takes to stand up even one blog post is way beyond my typical expectation, especially in my chosen field of personal finance. If you have had the chance yet to check out my site at makingamillennialmillionaire.com, you’ll see that I’m set out to not necessarily be like all of the other personal finance sites that list “The Top 5 Side Hustles To Make You Money” or other nonsense like that. My site is about teaching people the basics of finance: saving, investing, budgeting and how to think long-term about their financial future.
With this journey now hitting six months and 100(!) blog posts, I wanted to take the time to outline everything I’ve learned, all the wins I’ve had, the mistakes I’ve made and how much I’ve earned from all of this. Let’s go!
Crypto is King (and FinTech is Queen)
If you look at all of the posts on my site by view count, you’ll quickly notice a trend. Readers in my niche are kind of interested in how to save for retirement or what the differences between a Roth and Traditional IRA are. Mostly, however, they’re interested in two things: cryptocurrency and specific companies they can invest in. Crypto is of particular interest, especially around the idea of long-term thinking (The Case for a $5 Million Bitcoin) and taxes (How the 1% Avoid Taxes on Their Bitcoin, and You Can Too!)
The other posts that seem to gain the highest levels of attention are the relatively new and exciting companies that I break down. Posts about disruptive consumer FinTech companies like Affirm Technologies and Upstart Holdings seem to find their audiences, who are enamored by the business models and technologies that these companies are pioneering.
The Twitter Megaphone
If you research strategies to promote your blog, you’ll typically see SEO gurus promoting “how to get your article to #1” as well as others claiming that Pinterest is the top driver of organic traffic to you blog (assuming you’re decent at graphic design). But for me, it’s Twitter all day long (and one more I’ll talk about in a minute).
Twitter has a remarkable community of financial-oriented users. Nicknamed “FinTwit,” the community is full of users driven to either improve their financial situation or to shill the next garbage cryptocurrency they’ve invested their life savings into. Either way, they’re hyper engaged. and have their own hashtag-type system that allows segments of the community to communicate with each other. This is especially true when the company has a cult around it, like public market standouts Tesla (Can Tesla Continue Being A Growth Stock?) and Palantir Technologies (Could This Secretive Software Company Be Your Portfolio’s Secret Weapon?). I accidentally discovered that one method of getting people to share your post is to…piss them off. That’s exactly what happened with Palantir, as (spoiler) I’m not in love with this company. That led to a little bit of fury from the less mature side of the audience. But sometimes a share on Twitter will help you pick up a bit of traction elsewhere, which leads me to…
The Magic of Reddit
My blog gets a decent amount of overnight traffic. Typically I’ll wake up around 8am and see my Wix app has logged between 40–60 notifications from various cities around the world with visitors to my site. The morning of November 1, I woke up, checked my phone and saw 300 notifications from Wix for my newest article, a breakdown of SoFi Technologies. After scanning Twitter and digging through Google Analytics data, I discovered that someone had seen my post and posted it into the /r/SoFi subreddit, driving huge (relatively) traffic to the site. From there, I never looked back.
You may have heard of Reddit when one of their subreddits, Wall Street Bets, nearly single-handedly collapsed the stock market in early January when they pumped GameStop stock to the point where they shuttered a hedge fund. Well, there’s a subreddit for everything. Clothes, watches, cars, stocks, cryptocurrencies of all kinds, personal finance, taxes, everything! The tricky part is finding them. Reddit isn’t inherently good at finding new communities, so digging through them and researching each subreddit’s posting rules. Some of my most popular posts, like the previously mentioned cryptocurrency posts, are mainly driven from Reddit clicks. Which leads me to my lessons.
Getting On Reddit’s Bad Side is Super Easy
Sooooo….I got banned from Reddit. Multiple times. The main offending post was my Millionaire Lifestyle piece on how Tom and Gisele Brady spend their mega millions. I figured that the /r/NFL community would be the most natural place for that post, right? Turns out, that was wrong. Very, very wrong. I ended up getting banned from Reddit for 3 days. So after that ban, I’m scrolling through Reddit as a user and see a post about Aaron Rodgers in the /r/NFL subreddit. I comment something innocuous and *bang* suspended for 7 more days. Super.
I’m Really Bad at Pinterest
Taking a look at essentially everything you can find online about organic traffic, you’ll typically find two main sources:
Search Engine Optimization
The first one, not surprising. The second one? Now that’s a bit more so. I’m a social media manager in my 9–5 and even I was surprised by the popularity of Pinterest in the blogger space. The best explanation I’ve seen so far is from Sophia Lee, the mega-blogger who has been killing the game since she was a sophomore in college and now reportedly makes over $75,000 per month from her blog.
Her secret? Pinterest! According to her “it’s the only social media platform where people come there in order to leave the platform,” and she’s exactly right! Unfortunately, it’s also the most visually creative medium, which I’m not so good at, though this is something I’m working on.
Listening To The Experts Is Always A Good Idea
If you’re a new blogger, I have one clear statement for you: don’t go it alone. There are people that already do this incredibly successfully, and not everyone is trying to sell you a course. Most are, but not everyone. The best resource I’ve come across so far is Income School, two Midwestern guys who have started and sold more blogs than I’ll ever read. They publish a majority of their information and tips for free on their YouTube channel, and help keep new bloggers grounded in their timelines and expectations.
Let’s Talk Earnings
Alright, let’s chat cash. So there are 3 main ways a blogger earns money from their blog: advertising, affiliates and sponsorships. Within 6 months, you’re pretty unlikely to get any sponsorships so I’ll cover the other two here.
Advertising for a new blogger essentially means one thing: Google Adsense. Adsense is the quickest, easiest and most accessible ad network for a majority of bloggers out there, especially new ones. If you go to any blog, chances are that you’re seeing the Adsense network at work. Unless you’re me. Then you get denied 20 times in your first 3 months before finally gaining access to the network in mid-October.
So what did I do instead? Well, good news for me: there are other ad networks. The one I tried is Propeller Ads, which is an ad network reliant on bullshit and pop-ups. The less said about this one, the better.
The other ad networks are typically reserved for more established blogs. First up, we have Ezoic, an ad network designed to help your blog algorithmically optimize your ads in order to generate higher CPM’s (cost per mille), which gives you greater revenue. Ezoic is reserved for blogs that clock in 10,000 sessions per month or more, verified through Google Analytics, and can reportedly more than double your ad revenue from Google Adsense.
The top-tier ad networks start at around 50,000 monthly sessions, and those would be Mediavine and AdThrive. These two ad platforms are the best-of-the-best for the blogging world, and reportedly 2–3x the revenue generated from Ezoic. Bloggers in different niches can reportedly achieve north of $30 per thousand impressions on the network, driving common monthly revenue of $10,000-$15,000.
Finally, there’s the Medium Partner Program. Medium pays out their writers in the partner program by using a proprietary algorithm of views and read time by internal members and new account sign-ups to determine revenue. Some of my post earnings vary wildly. One of my posts about the American Express Centurion Card has 1,300 views and has made nearly $100 over the life of the post, while another one of my posts with 1,300 views (The Case for a $5 Million Bitcoin) has made less than $5 because most of the views are what Medium considers “external.” Medium is definitely the easiest platform to get started on, but if you’re trying to take Medium full-time, be aware of this critical difference.
Affiliate marketing is selling a product on behalf of another company, and sharing a commission for that sale. It’ show upper-echelon bloggers make a majority of their revenue, along with their own info products. Making Sense of Cents is the master of this, reportedly making north of $100,000 per month in affiliate marketing.
I, however, have not done that. Specifically, I have made one affiliate sale, which for me is pretty sweet. My affiliate strategy thus far has been inserting referral links to platforms I actually enjoy using, and then sharing in the commission if someone clicks through. Well, to my surprise, someone clicked through! I got one affiliate sale when I referred someone to Robinhood, in which I was given $5 of Apple stock. It’s a start.
So What’s the Total?
OK, enough stalling. Here are my income totals for my blog between June and December of 2021, the first 6 months of my new blog:
Affiliate Income — $5 (Robinhood)
Google Adsense— $91 (October-December)
Medium Partner Program — $204 (June-December)
Total — $300 on the dot
So, is this a ton? No, of course not. But it’s $300 I didn’t have before! And I have some tailwinds coming my way as the typical SEO timeline for a new blog tends to kick in around the 8 month mark, meaning my AdSense earnings (and hopefully affiliate earnings!) should begin to snowball. If you’re thinking of getting into the blogging game, I would say go for it! It’s hard work, and takes a long, long time to see any sort of results. But I think the wait is well worth it.
Thanks for reading, and please let me know if you’d be interested in seeing a 12 month check in!