What I've Learned Blogging for One Year
It's My One Year Blog Anniversary!
When I started this blog, it truly was as a creative outlet. At that time, I was promoted into a job that had zero creative input on a day-to-day basis, and I was feeling pretty unfulfilled. The new paycheck was nice, but I wanted something...more I guess? That's why, last June 17, I purchased this domain name and wrote my first blog post, getting me into the blogging game (hopefully) forever. So today, I wanted to reflect on my first year of blogging to review what I've learned, what I've gained, how much money I've made and my thoughts on the future of this website.
What Is Blogging Really?
Blogging has been "dead" for the last 5-10 years now, if you listen to some "experts" out there. However, dig a little deeper on the research and you'll find that blogging is not just alive and well, but it's thriving.
Blogging has taken a little bit of a different form these days. While it used to be keyword stuffing and nonsense, it's now ascended to a very technical, almost scientific, way of writing. You do your research to see what people are actually searching, then you write in a way that is helpful and good. Then Google may bless you with a high ranking, or curse you to obscurity in the Google Sandbox. Luckily, there are many different ways to affect that ranking pretty quickly.
What I've Learned In SEO
If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you'll know that I am a digital marketer by day, but even I really didn't understand SEO. I'm a paid media guy, which means I'd rather spend $5 to get you to look at my site than figuring out where to put H2 tags or some alt-text in an image. However, I quickly realized that SEO is, by far, the best way to get your site in front of people (and I'll talk about the other ways to promote your blog in a minute). But where do you start learning SEO?
If you're a standard internet user like me, you'll Google "SEO 101" and a man named Neil Patel will come up. Neil is the OG SEO guru, and has built systems and tools to help bloggers and marketers improve their SEO game. However, I was looking for that next step to take my SEO deeper, which is when I discovered "Income School."
Income School is a niche blog company with a robust YouTube channel that helps people learn SEO from the ground up. They also sell a program called Project 24 that apparently helps people replace their full-time income within 24 months on their blog, but I wouldn't know because I haven't bought it (yet). Even without purchasing this program, these guys have been incredibly helpful in giving me a foundation to achieve somewhat moderate success in SEO. So what have I actually learned?
Personal Finance Is Fucking Hard
My main passion outside of work is the world of personal finance (obviously). This site is dedicated to personal finance in a fun way, from outlining inflation in an easy-to-learn way to breaking down the most exclusive credit cards ever made. However, I built this site prior to learning about Google's acronyms for YMYL and EAT. Let's break these down a little bit:
Related: What Is Inflation Really?
YMYL stands for "Your Money, Your Life," and it helps Google stay on top of blogs that feature topics about money, health and wellness. Google essentially views these sites as "high-risk," because if it promotes a blog that is incorrect in a topic, then it could be a huge liability.
Let's say you're searching for "signs of a heart attack." Are you going to get Big Steve's Guide to Left Arm Numbness? No, you're going to get results from The Mayo Clinic and M.D Anderson, because they are known, reputable sources of information.
It's the same in personal finance. Some hard-hitting topics like life insurance, credit and even saving and budgeting can be strongly restricted by Google if you are not an already built-up expert in the field. So how do you build up that expertise? EAT!
What is E-A-T?
EAT stands for "Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness," and it's a guiding principle for Google in all rankings, but especially those in the YMYL sector.
Most bloggers view EAT as a bad thing, but I don't see it that way. Why would someone click on your site if you weren't an expert in the field? As a user, would you want to be constantly exposed to wrong information? Probably not! That's why I view EAT as an opportunity.
How do you build up your credibility with Google? Certifications and backlinks. On the certification front, as I have relevant work experience and coursework in my sector, it's a matter of time until Google notices and logs that I am an "expert" in this field, and the rankings will climb to match. For backlinking, that's something I'm bad at. I don't actively build backlinks, but I have noticed that I'm starting to get some backlinking traction according to my various tools.
So how do I know that I'm climbing in rankings at this point? Because it's already started.
Featured Snippets Are The Holy Grail of SEO
Think about the last time you Googled something and at the very top of the first page, there was the answer to your question. Nice, right? That's called a "Featured Snippet," and you can actually write your posts in such a way to target that spot on the ranking.
Doing so will essentially allow you to "skip the line" of organic SEO, which experts say takes between 8-12 months for a new blog in a normal niche and between 12-16 months for those in a YMYL niche. Now you can see why snippets are so powerful.
I am incredibly fortunate to say that, even with the new May 2022 Google Core Update, I have captured 16 featured snippets. As you might imagine, the articles that rank for these bring in a majority of my traffic from organic SEO. The other traffic, however, is much harder to come by.
What's The Best Way to Promote a Blog?
Most bloggers are torn on the absolute best ways to promote a blog. Most swear by organic SEO, because it's passive and powerful once you get the ball rolling. Some are kings of the backlink, and will do whatever they can to achieve mass backlinks with reputable websites. Others turn to more active promotional methods.
I have attempted to do a mixture of all three of these, to varying degrees of success. I've already spoken about organic SEO, so I think the next topic here would be backlinks.
Backlinking and HARO
It turns out that the easiest way to backlink is to know someone with a successful website and just ask them for links. The second easiest way is HARO.
HARO stands for "Help A Reporter Out," and it's a service that matches reporter on deadline with experts to help source quotes. It's an excellent platform, but it's extremely popular, which makes your quote (and subsequent backlink) incredibly hard to land. I was fortunate that I was featured in Yahoo Finance very early on in this blog thanks to a HARO backlink, but I've had basically zero success with it other than that.
Promoting Your Blog on Social Media
Finally, let's chat social media. Social media can be an incredibly powerful place to build up the network effect of views on your blog, but different platforms have very different strategies. Are you looking for "quick hit" views that come and go quickly, but immediately? Welcome to Twitter! Twitter is actually how I drove my first 20,000 views on this site, and I did so very quickly. However, they disappeared just as fast, and my view count fell off a cliff when I wasn't as active.
How about building up a dedicated fan base over years that requires just as much time as building up the blog itself? Then Facebook might be your jam! Or, you could try to compete with OnlyFans girls promoting their accounts next to a stream of rejected Tik Toks and hop over to Instagram.
Really, in blogging, there are two key social media platforms for promotion that accomplish the fan base feel with the "quick hit" views, and they are Pinterest and Reddit. Bloggers like By Sophia Lee swear by Pinterest, and that's how she drives more than half of her total views for her site. I myself am god-awful at Pinterest, so I turned to Reddit.
Reddit is like the world's biggest dumpster, but if that dumpster was segmented into different types of trash. You have finance bros, wholesome memes, gore, porn, whatever. Well, that variety opens up the communities to quite a bit of exposure from bloggers, and that means that various subreddits are a phenomenal way to drive views. In the last month alone, three of my Reddit posts have driven over 2,000 page views, 10,000 Adsense impressions and generated some of the highest ad revenue days I've seen on this blog to date, so yeah, I'm a fan of Reddit.
Can Blogs Make Money?
A quick Google search for "Blog Income Reports" will generate hundreds of thousands of posts (mine included) charting their monthly income. You can make some serious money blogging, and I mean serious.
Related: My Income Report for May 2022
Income School estimates that most bloggers, assuming you're doing things correctly, can make upwards of $4,000 per month starting at around month 20. Todd Knutson of "Invested Wallet" mentioned he had his first month over $1,000 of revenue in month 11. However, many make way less than this, but many make much, much more.
Jeff Rose of "Good Financial Cents" reported making over $100,000 per month from his blog.
By Sophia Lee, who I referenced earlier, has stopped publishing income reports but is reportedly well over $200,000 per month on her site.
The biggest I've found so far is Making Sense of Cents, who has made over $1 million per month. But how do these bloggers actually make their money?
How Blogs Make Money
Typically, there are five main ways that blogs make money:
Diversifying into other revenue streams
Advertising is typically the easiest, and most passive. These range from Google Adsense, where you'll make the least amount of money, to Mediavine and AdThrive, where you'll be rolling in Maybach's. Each level of the advertising tier has various strict policies surrounding them, but they are worth it to make more and more cash at each level.
Affiliate sales are another easy one for bloggers that are just starting, but this can be the highest earner on your site for a long time. Affiliate sales are just essentially selling someone else's product for them, and then you get a cut of the revenue. Easy enough, right?
Sponsorships work in the same way that celebrity endorsements work. You get paid to promote a product in a positive light. These ranges can be WILD. While most don't disclose how much their sponsors pay them, I've seen various income reports that range between a sponsored blog post making $100, all the way up to $10,000 for one post.
Merchandise (also called "info products") are products produced and sold by the blogger. The best example of this is Sophia Lee, who sells how-to courses on building your blog. She has stated that most of her income now comes from these course sales, which I mentioned earlier is over $200,000 per month.
Finally, there's diversifying into other revenue streams. Think about it: starting a blog means that you are learning several very marketable skills from the ground up. You're learning SEO, social media promotion, possibly paid media, website building skills and the most important: product marketing. That's why many bloggers who don't find immediate financial success on their sites pivot to an agency model, which can be one of the most profitable business models out there.
Has This Blog Made Money?
The short answer to this question is: YES! Though, possibly not as much as I'd like, but it's still early. Now that I'm 12 months in, here is exactly what I have generated from June 17, 2021 to June 17, 2022:
Website Costs: $486
Paid Media: $84.90
What Is The Plan For the Next Year?
The sound I heard last Friday was the sweet *ding* of my credit card going off, which means Wix has officially signed me up for another year! I'm very excited for the next 12 months of this blog (and hopefully beyond), but I will look to make a few changes going forward.
First, I really want to get back to the company analysis that I did last year. Deep-diving into one company per month and writing a 15-minute article on them was my personal highlight, despite very few people reading them. However, I don't have the time to do that and write the articles that actually bring in viewers, so my new plan is outsourcing.
If you are a writer, please contact me on my Contact page so we can talk!
I'm also opening my guest posting on the site. If you're a writer who wants to gain exposure and backlinking, hit me up! I'm now accepting guest posts on all things personal finance and millionaire/billionaire status.
Finally, I am going to expand my horizons into greater revenue expansion with freelancing and sponsorships. I've been approached a few different times, and really only executed on one of these opportunities because they're an awesome client who aligns with my core values. However, I'm now open to further opportunities so I can continue to reinvest into this site and grow it into what I want it to be: a one-stop-shop for all investors, new and old, to get helpful, useful information.
If you have an idea for an article you want to see, let me know! Contact me via the contact page on my site and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!