Traffic and Income Report – October & November 2017
Hey there. :)
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. This year 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.
OK, enough talk…. Let’s take a look at the numbers and what we learned in October & November
**A quick note: Some of the links below are affiliate links. Also, I combined October and November, but going forward these reports will come out once a month
WHAT WE DID IN OCTOBER:
October marks the first full month since we “re-launched” the blog, so to speak. Here’s a look at some of the things we did for the re-launch:
Redesigned the Blog “look” with a new template – The Rally Template on Squarespace.
Opened up an Amazon Affiliates account
Fixed up the design of our Mail Chimp Campaigns
Set up Google Analytics for the website
Set up a Patreon Account for Sponsors
Applied for and set up Google AdSense on Site
Wrote a PDF for our 5 favorite campsite recipes (You can get access to this for free by subscribing to our blog)
Automated a welcome email in Mail Chimp for new subscribers that sends out promised PDF
OCTOBER BLOG POSTS: My goal for October was to post at least once a week, and so far we kept to that goal! Here are the posts we put out for October:
WHAT WE DID IN NOVEMBER:
Still learning the ropes in November and trying to get things set up...
Reached 1,000 followers on Instagram for the @shedreamsofalpine page. This might seem dumb, but felt like we broke a barrier.
Started using Planoly to plan and schedule out Instagram posts. I've really loved this tool so far, and I am still only using their free version.
Partnered with Stanley on a blog post and Instagram post for a Stanley Flask Giveaway
Got officially “accepted” into the Amazon affiliate program
Started working on a introduction video for the Patreon account (We will post it to our account soon!!)
Took a Convert Kit Workshop on Growing Your Email List and Content Marketing
Got a Drone! This is exciting because we are stoked on all the video and photo opportunities in our future!
NOVEMBER BLOG POSTS: My goal for November was to post at least once a week, and so far we kept to that goal! Here are the posts we put out for November:
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:
Affiliates: Basically when you (the blogger or website owner) add a link to a certain product or service from your website. If someone clicks on this link and ends up buying the product or service, then you get a certain "percentage" of that profit. If you start paying attention, you'll notice that a lot of blogs do this. The percentages vary from company to company. Amazon has a well known affiliate program and it's simple to apply for, but the profit percentages are fairly low.
Mail Chimp: Mail chimp is basically an email campaign service. It helps you to collect email addresses and build your email list and also set up "campaigns" to send out to your readers. For instance, when you subscribe to my blog, I set up a "campaign" that immediately sends out a welcome email. Also, every time a new posts goes up on the blog, and email gets sent to my subscribers. There are a lot of different service providers out there for this, but I'm using Mail Chimp because it was free to start out with and integrates easily with Squarespace.
Google Analytics: If you have a website, you should link it to google analytics right away. Its free and even if you don't understand how to use it right away it can start collecting your site data, and there is a ton of it!
Patreon: Patreon 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! :)
Ok, I'm sure you're thinking.. "but what did you earn?" Well don't get too excited, we aren't blowing things out of the water or anything... honestly I didn't even know what Google AdSense or affiliate programs were until about a month ago. And I'm still learning what the right kind of balance is and how to market properly. This blog is going to be like a fine wine, I hope, getting better with age (both content and helping us pay our student loans).
Revenue Totals (Oct + Nov): $245.59
Patreon Sponsors: $238.00
Amazon Affiliate Income: $3.13
Google AdSense: $4.46
the funny thing is, we can't claim the AdSense money until we've made $100, but we will mark it as revenue from these months regardless... hopefully one day we will get to deposit that check. :)
Blog Expenses (Oct + Nov): $65.25
Sidebar Plugin for Squarespace Rally Template: $42
The Rally Template doesn't have a sidebar (some templates do though), but I really wanted one for the site, so I invested in adding one.
NET INCOME THAT GOES TOWARDS STUDENT LOANS (Oct + Nov): $180.34
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.
I am pulling our site traffic overview primarily from Google Analytics.
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. November alone saw over 3,000 unique visitors. There are big spikes on the days when I post new content you can see, mostly because I work on marketing the posts right after posting them. Unlike the common phrase "build it and they will come", I think its more like, "build it, tell people about it, and they will come"... again, action. I'm hoping to start building Pinterest more as a traffic source soon too, and hopefully that will help build more sustained traffic... and work on blog SEO.
Top 10 Traffic Sources
Direct Traffic: This is my "biggest" category, so i looked up a bit what that means. Apparently 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 sounds like a mixed bag. That's ok...
Summit Post: Interestingly, Summit Post (although only 78 views) seems to have the highest reader engagement (long session duration), which I guess makes sense because people there are usually seeking out trip reports, and we have a bunch of those on the blog.
Reddit: I put some of our stuff on Reddit, but it makes me cringe every time. I try extra careful not to be spammy, and only to share content I think might be interesting, but Reddit can be brutal. Sometimes even Hiking subreddits that say they are looking for "trip reports" aren't friendly to blog shares. I think the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to make sure you are sharing interesting content there or don't share there at all, AND make sure you are engaging with the community.
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: Honestly, I'm amazed people have taken the time to click over to the site from Instagram, but that's awesome!
Mobile Vs. Desktop Vs. Tablet
Blog Post with Most Views:
THOUGHTS ON THIS MONTHS INCOME AND WHAT WE LEARNED
First of all, we learned a ton this month and it's kind of like learning on the fly. I made a conscious decision to start working on the blog and creating before I was 100% ready. I think it's really important not to let the fact that you might not know everything keep you from starting. This is basically my mantra right now because I still don't know a lot of things about blogging "professionally" if you can call it that. Basically everything that I mentioned above was all completely new and foreign to me a couple of months ago. It's amazing what you can learn if you just start taking some action.
WHAT WE STILL NEED TO WORK ON
A lot. A lot. A lot. We are super-duper novice status still. So we have a lot to still learn. Below are a few of the things I would like to focus on in December though:
Pinterest Marketing - I've heard a lot about how Pinterest can be a great source of traffic, so I've started taking a few online classes I can find to learn about it (I have an old account, but it needs new life breathed into it). I'm hoping to have a "Pinterest Marketing Strategy" formulated here in the next week or so, so I can start testing wether it's worth my time or not.
SEO - SEO is still sort of a black-hole for me... I throw the word around... I know it's important, but I don't know that much about it, how to optimize it, or how much control I even have over it... Will keep you posted.
Posts Goal - In December I'd like to up the number of posts I'm putting out. It's so hard to find time to write with a full time job, but I'm sure with time, I'll get quicker at it. So my goal for December is 6 total posts.
Patreon Intro/Welcome Video - We are hoping to post our introductory Patreon video this month + add our first blogging resource video tutorial for our Patrons
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'll share these findings with our Patrons!
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.
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 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! We are hoping to go out to Bishop again this weekend for some more bouldering... Got some projects to send.
Allison and Michael
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