Traffic and Income Report - February 2018
It's that time again, where I bring you behind the scenes of how we are working to make this blog into a business. It's funny, I started this "monetize my blog" experiment in October of 2017 just to see if we could make a little extra passive income to help pay off our student loans, and while that is still true, this "experiment" has turned into a passion for me. I don't just want to make this work for helping to pay student loans off, I also want to prove up something with a viable long term future... something that could maybe give me and Michael location independence one day. Paying off the student loans is the first piece in that puzzle, but I hope to be creating new content and growing this community for much longer than that. If the past few months have taught me anything it is that I have a TON still left to learn and that this won't be easy. It takes consistent, daily, action. I guess I hope if anything I am showing you that I am dedicated, not sugar coating anything, and hopefully helping to provide a road map of sorts to doing something like this yourself as well. If you’d like more details on why I’m writing these kinds of post, please read the intro of my first income report.
It is important to note that I still work (and anticipate working for still quite a while) a full time job which is very demanding in its own right. I also can't spend all my spare time blogging because I also want to travel and exercise and explore so I can share these awesome adventures with you guys. I look at it this way:
I have 1 full time job: Engineer
I have 1 part time job: Blogger/Entrepreneur
I have 1 part time job: Athlete and Traveller
It helps that I really enjoy this blogging work, it really appeals to a lot of my personality. I love to create and share. I love being challenged and having to learn new things because I have an intense curiosity bone! I also have a strong drive to prove to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to. So putting in 20+ hours extra a week on working on this blog isn't overall that taxing on my soul.
And if you’d like to support us in our journey, the best way to do that is via our Patreon account. You can read more about that here. As an added bonus, we provide Patrons some extra benefits such as being featured on our support page and $3 patrons get access to exclusive video tutorials we put out each month that delve more into the nitty gritty of blogging as a business and teaching you what we are learning. We currently have 10 amazing patrons! We are so grateful for all the support and love we have received from this community so far.
**A quick note: Some of the links below are affiliate links.
I mentioned in my January income and traffic report that I had some specific goals for 2018, including growing my audience and traffic, creating meaningful and useful content, working on SEO, etc. Here are some of the things that I worked on this month that took me one step closer to those goals.
What we worked on for the Blog:
We reached 10,000 followers on instagram @shedreamsofalpine! Which is amazing and has been on the top of my social media goals. As a sidebar, I'm coaching my first student this March on how to build and grow his Instagram account, this is something I am considering offering as a service. If you would be interested in something like that, enter your email below and I will notify you when I provide a service like that on my site (either more coaching or online class).
I switched my site from http to https. I learned from a Food Blogger Pro podcast that google now looks more favorably on https (s meaning secured) websites than http, which could go into affecting how you rank on google. I had never really given it much thought, but I immediately learned how to switch this over in Squarespace and changed. It was painless from a Squarespace perspective, they automatically url redirect to any old links with the http: setting. In the podcast though, it sounded like it might be a bit more complicated for Wordpress users that have a lot of existing content already.
Researching Pinterest Virtual Assistants - After a lot of thought, I've decided I have don't really have time to dedicate to Pinterest, but I believe (from all that I have read) it can be an extremely valuable asset to growing and promoting this blog. So I started interviewing some Pinterest VAs, and I anticipate to hire one starting in March. I'll let you know how all that goes!
We grew our email list by +110 new subscribers this month with Convert Kit! I seriously swear by Convert Kit you guys, since I changed over in January we have seen great progress in growing our email list! I've actually been really slacking in my "writing a newsletter" consistently department, but mostly because I've been really trying to focus on my "why" and my "vision" for the future of this blog and I want to have a consistent voice and message in my newsletters. More to come on our "why" in March and how I'd like to use this blog to be a purpose-driven-business.
We became Patagonia Affiliates! Although, I would promote their gear without having affiliate links to their products, because hands down Patagonia clothing is my favorite "outdoor" splurge item. Their clothing is genuine quality (I have had some of my jackets over 8 years now) and their mission as a company is unbeatable.
Engaging with Brands. I had a goal to engage with some brands on potential future collaborations. Some of them we are working with for future posts and some just simply ignored me! :) Thats the way it goes, but the point was to get out of my comfort zone and start learning how to "pitch ourselves"
SEO - As always, I continue to improve upon my SEO in each post, but for some reason I have a shitty Domain Authority, so this month I tried to work on getting some quality backlinks to my site. I'm happy to report that my DA moved up 2 points, still low.. but progress is the key!
We published our 3rd Patreon video! This month I talked about how to create a custom "blog signature" and went through step by step how to create one and link it properly in your site. It’s only available to patrons, but we try to make our tutorials very affordable for patrons. Gaining access is only $3/month, and we are putting out at least 1 new tutorial a month for patrons + all patron earnings (and all blog earnings in general) go straight to supporting blog expenses and student loans. We currently are only investing in our business and student loan debt with any of the money we make with the blog.
I put my site up on Bloglovin. I use this app personally to keep up with food blogs that I love, and so I just made sure that The She Dreams of Alpine blog was in here too.
I used to use Planoly to manage my instagram account photos and schedule, but I switched that stuff over to Tailwind in February now that they have an autopost feature + I already use Tailwind for Pinterest.
Other fun things from February:
This month we got to go rock climbing at two awesome places! We spent one weekend up at Red Rocks in Las Vegas, spending time on some old projects (I finally sent Potato Chips, a V2 that I struggled with last time I was there), and also worked on some new projects! It was a great weekend, made some progress on some old climbs and some progress on new ones. We also got to spend a longer weekend traveling up to Moe's Valley and checked out the climbing there for the first time. It was super rad and I can't wait to go back. Michael and I were so consumed with the awesome climbing there that we didn't actually take ANY photos (of quality) while we there (even though we both brought our cameras)... that's OK, it was nice to take a break from that for a bit. It just means we will have to go back (wink) so we can take some photos to share that area more with you guys.
Finished 2 amazing books this month! Dead Mountain which was the Dream of The Alpine Book Club's choice for February and another book called "You are a Badass at Making Money". Dead Mountain was so interesting and I'm so glad the book club group picked this one! The other book I read was kind of a surprising gem. I wasn't sure what to expect but it was just what I needed. A book on mindset and in particular, addressing your mindset with money and wealth. I highly recommend the reads. In March the book club is reading, "Trespassing Across America" and for my personal choice I am reading "Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way" and if I have time (since that Do the Work Book is smaller), I may also read "Brave Enough", by one of my favorite authors, Cheryl Strayed.
We signed a contract to move into a new place at beginning of May, which will help us save about $1000/month on rent and utilities, which will ultimately help us pay off our student loan debt quicker!
+ I can't wait to tell you about another new exciting thing we've been scheming on in February, but you will find out in March or April! patience my friends. :)
February BLOG POSTS
I had wanted to push out 7 blog posts in February, but I only ended up publishing 5 new pieces. Haven't figured out how to reduce the time I spend on these posts, so it's hard to crank out more than 5, but I anticipate I will get better at this with time. However, I’m really proud of the pieces we were able to publish and I feel like they are going to be great resources on this blog. Here’s a look at what we published in February:
Ok, I started being more conscious in February of where I was spending my time to make sure I optimized my day to the fullest since I am juggling so many things. I started writing down exactly how I was spending my time each day as far as working on the blog goes. If data interests you, here is how it all pieced out for February:
The good news is that I think I have my priorities straight! over 50% of my time is spent on creating and promoting new content for the blog. I spent quite a bit of time working on Pinterest stuff as well (hence my desire to get a VA). I also have a strong need to be organized, so I spend a fairly good portion of my time every week making sure I prioritize things and don't drop the ball anywhere. Anyways, kind of interesting, I'll probably continue to track this going forward. Almost 100 hours logged on the blog in February, on my "off" time from my day job.
Ok, so what did we earn in February?!
"THEORETICAL" Revenue Totals for February: $213.21
Patreon Sponsors: $132.74
We gained 1 new patron in February! You can see a list of all our sponsors on our Patreon page
Amazon Affiliate Income: $42.30
Google AdSense: $10.57
Skillshare Classes: $27.60
ACTUAL Blog Expenses for February: $147.00
Monthly expenses breakdown:
ConvertKit (monthly): $29
I made the leap to ConvertKit at the end of December and I couldn't be happier! I love love love it. I wouldn't go back to Mail Chimp now, it has seriously made my life so much easier and given me back so much time. I used to spend hours trying to figure out how to do something in Mail Chimp that is very intuitive in Convert Kit. I'll write a more detailed post sometime soon about why I moved from Mail Chimp to ConvertKit.
Virtual Assistant: $105
I have hired a VA to help me with a few things from time to time each month. It costs me about $26 a week, but has been a great help so far!
Canva - I finally upgraded my Canva membership to the pro version from the free version because I wanted to be able to save my "brand" colors and fonts, and build folders within Canva.
Other tools that I pay for (but only get charged yearly, not monthly)
NOTE: I also purchased some "training" courses in February to help me grow and learn faster, I have not accounted those expenses here since they are not "normal" blogging expenses.
So still not making a "ton" of money per say, but I still really consider myself in the learning phases of all of this, but the good news is that each month we have been able to earn a bit more! From $119 in September to $230 in March. Progress not perfection. You may wonder why I choose to hire a VA if it is so expensive, and that's because I'm thinking about my long game. I know that at the beginning months/year will be rough in terms of profit margins, but the VA is helping with work to help set the platform up for the future. We will see how it goes, but I have a firm belief that sometimes you have to invest in your business first before you can see it truly grow... hence why I am also taking several education courses since blogging is completely new to me.
I am pulling our site traffic overview primarily from Google Analytics.
Just to give you a bit of perspective, a few months before I "relaunched" the blog, I was only getting about 300 unique visitors to the blog (primarily from organic search) per month. I didn't quite achieve my traffic goals in February.
In February I was really hoping to touch the 10,000 page views mark, but I also dropped the ball in putting out 7 new posts in February and only posted 5 times. I think if I had posted 7 I would've reached 10,000. Also, my Pinterest traffic started declining for some odd reason in February, which is another reason why I am looking into hiring a Pinterest VA. All that being said, we still saw more page views and users in February than January. I also reached 1,000 page views for one post in one day, which has never happened to me before. I call this uptick the Havasu Falls Shark.
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: Its awesome to see this growing as we produce more content and work on optimizing our SEO. I can only imagine that it will get better with time as I have more time to go back to older posts and clean them up.
Reddit: I'm really moving away from posting in Reddit, I don't like it, the people aren't that friendly there and it just stresses me out. So I'd rather not stress myself out.
Facebook Groups: When I updated my Havasu Falls post, I found a Havasu Falls Facebook group and posted my trip report in there. It's part of the reason that Facebook was my number one traffic source in February
Instagram: As we've increased out following on instagram, we've seen increased engagement of clicks over to our blog as well. So while I don't expect IG to be the bigger turnover to our blog, I still think it's a valuable platform to invest in.
Pinterest: As I mentioned about, my overall Pinterest traffic has gone down this month even though I haven't really changed what I am doing, so that is a little discouraging.
MOBILE VS DESKTOP VS TABLET
MOST POPULAR BLOG POST IN JANUARY
Ok so we made a lot of good progress in February, reached some "social media goals", increased our income, and continued to put out quality content. As I look forward to the month of March I don't quite have a lot of expectations around the "Growth" aspect of things because I have recently invested in a couple of education programs and I have decided to dedicate a lot of my time to those so that I can eventually translate that into blog growth here. Since I have a full time job + the training + blog content, I don't expect I will be able to keep up with everything quite as well in March and April. We will see, and I'm doing my best, but the important thing here is that I have high hopes for the months following April. I see a lot of potential here, but I'm still learning and trying to do it the right way. I want to set up the kind of business I can be proud of and the kind of business I want to run for years and years and years.
Thanks for listening. Please leave me questions or feedback below in the comments if you have any :)
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