Traffic and Income Report - December 2017

   Blog Traffic and Income Report for December 2017  |  A monthly report on the She Dreams of Alpine Blog income and traffic. We are in the beginning stages of monetizing the blog to try and help us pay off our student loans. If you want to follow us along on this journey, this post will detail what kind of work we put into the blog and the steps we took to bring in more traffic and income. If this is something you're interested in, come learn with us on our journey! | shedreamsofalpine.com

Hey there. :)

If you missed our first income report, I'll re-introduce why we are putting these income reports out at the She Dreams of Alpine Blog:

I started this blog back in January of 2014, a year or so after moving to California from Texas. You can see my first post here (Hiking Mount Baldy, Jan 27,2014). I wanted a way to document all the cool places I was getting to see and the new things I was learning, and in a way, that hasn’t changed much. In 2017 I made a conscious decision to breathe a little life back into the blog and am looking to find my voice because I’d really like to make something out of it. These reports will not only detail our financial and blog traffic story, but also what we are learning and how we are growing in our own voice and endeavors. We have this dream to be free of debt so that we can travel more freely and pursue more adventures. Like John Muir said, “ The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” Since we love the experiences being outside has afforded us, we see this as a long-term endeavor.

You might be wondering why I am starting a traffic and income report on my blog? Doesn't this seem sort of out of place? Well, as Michael and I are learning the ropes of blogging and testing the waters to see if we would be able to make some money with this endeavor to help pay off our student loans, I thought it might be useful to you, the readers, to learn about this side of our adventures as we go along.

If this doesn’t interest you, no worries! Just skip it and we will be back to our outdoor shenanigans in no time. My goal is to earn $1,000/month by the end of 2018, but I have no idea if that is possible! Remember, we are literally bootstrapping over here and learning things on the fly on top of our 9-5 jobs... I just figured I’d set a high goal, and learn as I go.

The world of trying to make your blog resemble more like a business but without losing your voice and without putting out meaningless crap has been a confusing one to navigate. I truly want this to be a place to inspire others to adventure outdoors more, to talk about important issues, provide useful details, and to have fun! All that being said, there is this whole other side of blogging that can be a black hole to navigate, and since everything is new to us right now, it’s taking extra time to figure out. So bear with us and learn from our mistakes!

If you are feeling extra stoked about our site and our mission, please consider supporting us on Patreon as well! Everyone who visits my blog can get access to these “Income Reports”, but we have extra video content for our Patrons. For only a $3 pledge, you will get access to the video tutorials we have created along the way as we are learning to create a side income with the blog. We will cover a wide range of topics including: Affiliate Programs, Avoiding Scams, increasing your Instagram following, marketing tips... etc… basically, all the stuff I am learning each month but in easy to digest video tutorials. We published our first video in December 2017 about 5 Crucial Items to Check Before Publishing Your Blog Posts, basically SEO practices to help improve your blogs rankings on Google and it is already available to our patrons on Patreon. Even if you weren't a Patron last month, if you pledge now, you still have access to older video content.

OK, enough talk…. Let’s take a look at the numbers and what we learned in December.

**A quick note: Some of the links below are affiliate links.

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I worked my butt off in December (at least as much of my time as I could afford, since I still work a full time job), and I imagine I will be hustling a lot this year as there is a big learning curve for all of this stuff, and I'm quite determined to learn fast... that's just my personality. Here's a look at some of the things we accomplished this December:

  • We joined forces and became Ambassadors for Recover Brands, they take plastic bottles and turn them into t-shirts! Check them out!
  • I switched our Instagram account to a Business Account. When you do this, you will get access to all sorts of cool analytics about your followers and statistics. For instance, my following on instagram is 52% male and 48% female primarily between the ages of 25 to 34.
  • Speaking of Instagram, our account grew from 3,300 followers at the beginning of December to 6,000 followers!
  • I worked a lot more on Pinterest and learning about Pinterest:
    • I switched our Pinterest account to a Business Account to get access to analytics
    • I enabled rich pins
    • I updated all of my Pinterest boards
    • I added a Favicon (essentially a mini logo) to my Pinterest site site
    • I started making sure all my new posts included "pinnable" images for pinterest marketing
    • I am still in the process of fine-tuning my Pinterest marketing strategy, but I've learned a lot so far about it and have got the ball rolling by signing up for the Tailwind App to help my schedule posts in Pinterest.
    • I joined some Tailwind Tribes and a couple of Pinterest group boards
  • I created a Facebook Page for the She Dreams of Alpine blog site and we currently have 66 followers, this page is a work in progress :)
  • I took Planoly's Influencer Webinar and learned a bit about influencer marketing, something I hope to utilize more in the future monetization of this blog 
  • I began optimizing some of my previous posts for SEO (search engine optimization), which I hope to optimize all of my older posts in the future when I have time. This is a work in progress as time is limited
  • We created our first Patreon video!  The first video is published and available to our $3 patrons. We plan to post at least 1 or more videos a month, exclusive for our patrons. This first months video was what I've learned about optimizing blog posts for SEO and marketing! If you'd like to gain access to the tutorial and future tutorials, become a patron!
  • I've begun to use Canva for everything! It has seriously been a creative life-saver. It allows you to create beautiful templates and makes it super easy. I didn't even need to take any tutorials to understand how to use Canva, it's that user friendly. I can't believe I wasn't using this before! I primarily love using Canva for making images for Pinterest and slide covers for my youtube videos, but I've even used it before to create beautiful checklists. There is a free and a paid version of this tool, but I get by still using the free version only. Definitely check this tool out if you've never used it before.
  • I learned a little bit about Domain Authority, and learned that I need to work on mine.
  • I started using Mail Munch to market our weekly newsletter, and we have had great email list conversion rates with it so far!
  • I also bought a Jpeg Mini account. If you post a lot of photos, like me, (or honestly, even if you don't), run your photos through this tool JPEGmini to reduce your photo file sizes by up to 80% without sacrificing the quality of your photo! I didn't believe it until I tried it, but I really can't tell the difference between my 2MB photos after they've been reduced down to 300KB. Having smaller photos will help your website to load faster, which will help boost your SEO, so definitely don't ignore this. It costs $29 for the lite version (which is what I use), but that is a ONE TIME cost.. then you have it for unlimited use. Not a bad deal in my opinion.
  • I re-launched and updated my youtube channel (a little at least, still needs more work). Subscribe to us on youtube to keep up to date with new videos we post!
  • We were voted as one of the Top 100 hiking blogs every hiker should follow

Sorry if that's a lot, and it really doesn't account for all the time that was invested in improving the blog and making great quality posts. 

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WTF DOES ALL THAT CRAP EVEN MEAN?

In case you read some of the above bullets, here are few brief explanations. Again, I'll get more into details on these things in our Patreon videos for those of you who are Patrons, but a brief explanation of a few things:

  • Rich Pins - if you enable rich pins on Pinterest you basically allow Pinterest to scrub your blog posts for "meta data" to pull into your pins that are posted on Pinterest. You can read more about it here.
  • Tailwind App - The Tailwind app is an approved Pinterest app that you can use to help schedule out different pins throughout the month if you are using Pinterest in your blog marketing strategy. 
  • SEO - search engine optimization, basically improving your ranking on search engines so you can increase your overall organic traffic through search engines like Google or Bing, etc.
  • Domain Authority - this article says it all.
  • PatreonPatreon is a way for people to support creators. If you like the content someone is putting out and want to support them in their journey, this is a great platform to do so. We set one up because we are on a mission to get debt free and we hope that our readers love the content and want to support us in that journey. If not, the blog content is still free! :)

If there is something you are still wanting to know more about, just leave me a question in the comments below and I'll get back to you!

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The Numbers

The funny thing when you are starting out monetizing your blog, your theoretical earnings aren't exactly what gets deposited into your bank account. A lot of affiliate programs or ad programs require you to reach a minimum threshold in earnings before that money will get deposited. They hold onto your earnings, but you wont get a deposit until you reach a threshold. Also, some programs "lag" in their reporting. For instance, what I theoretically earned in December for Amazon affiliates program, won't truly be realized until February. Anyways we are still trucking along and the good news is that, each month we are seeing growth. We are headed in the right direction!

Theoretical Revenue Totals for December: $198.07

  • Patreon Sponsors: $125.4
    • We gained 2 new patrons in December! You can see a list of all our sponsors on our Work With Us page
  • Amazon Affiliate Income: $57.68
  • The Power Company Affiliate: $4
  • Google AdSense: $10.99

Blog Expenses: $809.90

There were a lot of expenses this month for the blog. I consider most of them "investments" and not a reflection on future monthly spend. Sometimes you have to spend money to invest in your future earnings.

  • Tailwind Pro Membership (yearly charge): $89.91
    • I've decided I want Pinterest to be a core part of my marketing strategy, so getting Tailwind membership seemed like a no-brainer.
  • ConvertKit (monthly): $29
    • I made the leap to ConvertKit finally. I had been holding out for a while because Mail Chimp was free and seemed to suit my needs just fine, but I found myself limited using Mail Chimp and I found myself using way too much of my time trying to figure out how to build smart content marketing strategies with the Mail Chimp Platform. I'm so happy I've moved to ConvertKit, it has seriously made my life so much easier. I've only had ConvertKit for a little over a week and have already nearly doubled my email subscribers list. I'll write a more detailed post sometime soon about why I moved from Mail Chimp to ConvertKit.
  • Screen Recorder Movavi (one time expense): $30
    • I wanted a way to record my screen for my tutorial videos that I am going to be making for my Patreon tutorials. So this was a one time investment. The software is super simple to use.
  • Learning/Tutorials/Classes: $661
    • I invested a lot in my learning this month. One time costs that I can refer back to as I learn to build and monetize my blog. The great thing for you is, as I learn, you can learn from me too by becoming a Patron for only $3. Consider me the guinea pig.

NET INCOME THAT GOES TOWARDS STUDENT LOANS: $0

Zero this month because of all the learning tutorials I invested in, but that is so we can grow in the future. If you're unfamiliar with our mission to pay off our student loan debt, you can read more about it on our Patreon site under "What will this money be used for" paragraph.

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TRAFFIC OVERVIEW

I am pulling our site traffic overview primarily from Google Analytics.

traffic summary

Just to give you a bit of perspective, a few months before I "relauched" the blog, I was only getting about 300 unique visitors to the blog (primarily from organic search) per month. In December we saw slightly more consistent traffic day to day with continued upticks when we pushed out new blog posts.

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Top 10 Traffic Sources

Direct Traffic: This is always my "biggest" category. Direct traffic can occur any time that Google Analytics can't determine the source of the traffic. Often times this can be from mobile social media apps or emails, or even organic search. It's a mixed bag.

Organic Traffic: I can only guess that our organic traffic has increased as we have worked more on our site SEO and put on more content on the site. My first video tutorial on Patreon is actually all about optimizing your blog posts for SEO.

Reddit: We continue to post some of our new content to reddit, but again you've really got to be careful not to be spammy, and don't post the same content to multiple subreddits.

Facebook Groups: Facebook groups are great for outdoor bloggers if your post is applicable to your niche group. For instance, I like to share our backpacking trips in the Sierras and stuff like that in those places. Again, respect the group rules (each group has their own rules), and only add content if it seems valuable to the group. I've enjoyed being part of some of these groups actually and have gotten some great trip ideas from other group members!

Instagram: As we've increased out following on instagram, we've seen increased engagement of clicks over to our blog as well.

Pinterest: I just started utilizing Pinterest in December for marketing, and so 69 sessions from Pinterest is great versus our 0 from last month! I haven't really even implemented a consistent strategy, so I'm looking forward to when I do.

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mobile vs Desktop vs tablet

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most popular blog post in december

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THOUGHTS ON THIS MONTHS INCOME AND WHAT WE LEARNED

Mostly I feel like there is not nearly enough time in a day to start working on and implementing all the things that I want to work on to make this blog better. I know there are things that can help my SEO so much but I just don't have time to go back and fix all my old blog posts right now. I'm basically in full blown learning mode these days, and flying by the seat of my pants... bootstrapping and figuring it out as I go. 

WHAT WE STILL NEED TO WORK ON

There's always so much to work on, but in January 2018, here's what I'll be focusing on.

  • Pinterest Marketing - I learned a lot about Pinterest in December. In January I want to implement a consistent strategy and start measuring the results.
  • SEO - I learned quite a bit more about SEO in December as well and now I need to spend some time going back to older posts and implementing some SEO best practices, like the ones I discuss in my video tutorial for our Patrons.
  • Posts Goal - Since my time is still limited and I am still in learning mode, I'm keeping my goal for January to be 6 total blog posts. 
  • Patreon Intro/Welcome Video - We are hoping to post our introductory Patreon video this month, we ran out of time to edit it in December. We will also be posting our second blogging video tutorial in January. We posted our first one in December about how to optimize your blog posts for SEO.
  • Case Studies - I love data, so I've got a few blogs I'd like to take a deeper dive into analyzing their strategies and tactics. I didn't get to this in December, but this is still on the list I'll share these findings with our Patrons
  • Content Marketing - Content marketing is essential a creative way to build your email list. You create something of value for your readers and provide it for free in exchange for their email. It's a great way to build your email list. We hope to learn more about this, and it is a big reason why I switched to ConvertKit.
  • Value - Most importantly, I don't want to put crap out into the world. I want to make sure I'm being true to myself and our life, and most importantly that I'm sharing meaningful and helpful content. I'll be looking to you, the readers, to help be my compass for this.

For more blogging resources, tips and tutorials, check out our Income and Blogging Page. We also have started a resource library that is exclusive for our readers and will be updated and added to monthly. You can gain access to the library below.

FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY

Printables

The resource library is a collection of helpful printables, guides, and templates for entrepreneurs and bloggers. I continue to add new content to the library too as we develp new resources!

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Anyways, to those of you are following us along in this journey, thank you! Thanks for checking in and reading these posts on the blog. It means a lot. Please free to leave any feedback below or contact us if you want to reach out.

Best of luck to you on any upcoming adventures! I'm currently writing this post from Hueco Tanks, Texas. We have been spending the last week and a half down here on a bouldering trip with friends. 

Cheers,

Allison and Michael


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