Traffic and Income Report - January 2018
Tuning in for month 4 since our blog "re-launch" in October to bring you an updated income and traffic report. If you’d like more details on why I’m writing these kinds of post, please read the intro of my first income report.
In a nutshell, Michael and I are experimenting to make this blog an additional source of income in hopes to help us pay off our student loan debt faster and be debt free. Each month we are learning a little bit more about the process and this post is to share with others who are hoping to do something similar. Learn from us, follow our journey, use this however you’d like.
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 9 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.
To be honest, January is a blur for me! It went by so fast and since it was the beginning of the year there were so many “beginning of the year” content ideas that I really wanted to push out. I focused a lot of my January month on goal setting and planning for 2018 and content creation.
Since this blog is “new” if counting our re-launch date (technically it’s older), there are a lot of goals I wanted to establish for myself for 2018 and some milestones I wanted to create. Here is a look at a few of the goals I’ve set for myself and the blog in 2018.
Create content that my readers want – Ok this sounds obvious, but I remember back in 2014 I created content really only for myself. It was a way for me to tell stories, and that’s great, but I really want to focus not just on stories, but how can these stories help my readers. If I have a trip I went on, how can I make planning for a similar trip for my readers easier and pain-free. How can I set them up for success? I have a goal of putting out 10 new blog posts per month, by the end of 2018. It’s something I plan to work up to, since currently I’m only producing about 6 posts per month.
Work on My SEO – I’ve still got a lot to learn about SEO, and I’ve been implementing a lot of little things to improve my SEO, but I need to take the time to go back to old posts and improve them. I also need to work on building my backlinks. All these things will help my blog pages reach people more organically.
Grow my Traffic- My big goal for traffic is reaching 25k page views/month so I can start working with Ad companies like Mediavine. I’ve heard good things about them, and would really love the opportunity to use them. I hope to utilize SEO, Pinterest, and producing more content to help me reach this goal by mid-2018
Grow my Audience – a little different from growing traffic, but mainly I hope to grow my audience, the people who I will write my posts for. Whether it be on Instagram, Facebook, my email list.. etc. For example, a big milestone for me will be reaching 10k followers on IG. I love the Instagram platform and find it an easy way to connect with the outdoor community. I’ve also met some awesome outdoor bloggers through the IG community, so I like to focus my attention to this social platform.
Learn Photography (for myself)- this is a little more of a personal goal than just a blog goal, but great photography and videos are what I want for all of my posts on this blog. Michael takes the most beautiful photos, and I am challenging myself to learn more from him this year because sometimes he doesn’t get to go on all the outdoor trips that I go on. So sometimes I’m the solo photographer!
Get More Involved with the Outdoor Community - I want to start connecting with more bloggers and getting more involved with brands for sponsored content relationships in 2018 and integrate this more into my routine. There are so many awesome outdoor bloggers out there and brands to engage with.
Anyways, I have other little goals for the blog, but those are some of the big ones.
What else did we do in January?
We had a 2 week vacation in January to climb at Hueco Tanks State Park in Texas (a post I hope to bring to you early February), and it was awesome, but I spent more of my time climbing than blogging there (although I did work on some things on our rest days and evenings)
We also updated the Recommended Outdoor Gear Page on the blog
I started a book club! Ask any of my friends, and they will tell you that I love to read, and I particularly love reading outdoor adventure stories. One of my personal goals in 2018 is to read more books and I wanted to read more books for fun (I tend to read a lot of "educational books"). So I started a facebook group book club and asked some people if they’d be interested in joining. The group is now over 150 members. We have read John Muir’s Wilderness Essays and this month we are reading a book called Dead Mountain. You can join the group here, if you’re interested, or learn more about this month’s book here.
Our Instagram account grew from 6,000 followers to 8,500 followers in January! Like I mentioned above, I’ve really loved engaging with this community, it’s so awesome to see everyone’s post and all the love and support we get there. You guys are the best!
With a bigger shift toward publishing content that our readers want to receive and read, we have also switched our blog post notification to a weekly newsletter format using ConvertKit. You can subscribe to our newsletter here. This is the best way to stay up to date with new content and interesting things going on around our little blog here. We love feedback and talking to our readers too, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us! If you’ve got a questions or need clarification on anything, reach out! We aren’t a big brand with no time to answer your questions. Your questions and stories are important to us, and make growing this blog so special to us. Community has been the most exciting part of this journey.
We published another Patreon Video in January and it goes over 10 Important Things I’ve Learned Since I’ve Started Blogging. 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 spent probably a good week in January planning out some “tentative” hiking trips and setting up reminders for myself to apply for permits for certain trails that require them in the Sierra. I also wanted to share all this research I was doing and wrote the post, “Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites in 2018” in order to help you do your own planning for 2018.
I’ve been looking for a new “online photo management” system and had previously been using Flickr for having a backup database of our outdoor photos. However, I’ve been having a lot of issues with Flickr’s upload tool and have wasted a ton of time trying to load in albums that would just result in upload errors. So I quit that bad relationship despite its sweet promise of 1TB storage for free and moved my photo storage system to SmugMug and couldn’t be happier! It costs a bit of money, but you have unlimited storage for only $4/month, and the best part? The uploader actually works… every time. I also really love the way you can organize and tag your photos in SmugMug, it is exactly what I was looking for and I don’t mind paying for it. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a online photo storage system.
I also became a Mountain Standard field agent this month! Mountain Standard is this cool outdoor company based out of Boulder Colorado, check them out!
JANUARY BLOG POSTS
I had wanted to push out 6 blog posts in January, but I only ended up publishing 5 new pieces. This is primarily because the posts I created took a lot more time to create, and we were on vacation the first couple of weeks in January. 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 January:
It can be a little discouraging talking numbers, especially when you are first starting out. We all want to grow bigger, faster, but good things take time and so I have to constantly remind myself of that. Despite feeling overwhelmed with a lack of time to get things done and only publishing 5 total posts in January, we continued to see things move in the right direction.
Don't forget that in this numbers section I will talk to you in "actuals" and "theoreticals". It is sort of hard to report financial numbers, particularly starting out because many programs have "thresholds" before you will get paid, and some programs don't pay you until a month delayed. So our theoretical will be based on January stats. Our actuals will reflect money in da bank. I have two spreadsheets where I track both.
"THEORETICAL" Revenue Totals for January: $182.67
Patreon Sponsors: $130.09
We gained 1 new patron in January! You can see a list of all our sponsors on our Patreon page
Amazon Affiliate Income: $42.20
Google AdSense: $10.38
ACTUAL Revenue for January: $130.09
We still haven't met the $100 threshold for payout with Google AdSense, and I think we have for Amazon Affiliates, but the payment for January is a month delayed.
ACTUAL Blog Expenses: $163.00
Monthly expenses were a minimal this month
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!
JPeg Mini: $29
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.
Other tools that I pay for (but only get charged yearly, not monthly)
Tailwind Pro Membership - For managing my Pinterest marketing!
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. I'm still on the free trial, but I will start getting charged $13/month in February.
For a full list of tools that I recommend in blogging, check out the income and blogging page on our site
NET INCOME THAT GOES TOWARDS STUDENT LOANS: $0
So if you take our Actual Revenue - our Actual Expenses, we are still in the "break even" phase of our blog, but I am hoping by mid 2018 we will start to see this change. To be honest, If you look at my actuals from October to now, I've only really "lost" money by investing in this blog, but I'm not discouraged by that at all. Like with most things, there are upfront costs and learning curves, but I'm still very hopeful for the future. You can read more about our goals in the section above! :)
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. In January we are continuing to see an uptick in traffic, and you can see in mid January that we are starting to see more consistent daily traffic. This correlates with us starting to market on Pinterest more in January.
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: 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. 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: Ok, I haven't even really implemented a super consistent Pinterest strategy yet (mostly because it takes so much time that I haven't quite figured out where to squeeze it into my evenings), but we started making sure our stuff was getting posted to tailwind groups and group boards, and I also participate in some facebook Pinterest sharing groups. Even with just this simple integration our traffic from Pinterest has gone from 69 sessions in December to over 500 in January! Insane! This just proves to me more that I want to focus on this platform.
MOBILE VS DESKTOP VS TABLET
MOST POPULAR BLOG POST IN January
THOUGHTS ON THIS MONTHS INCOME AND WHAT WE LEARNED
My biggest takeaways from January are simple:
Continue taking micro-steps each day to improve your blog. Eventually those will cumulate into something great! I have even started a little journal specifically for my blog that I keep by my bed. At the end of every night, I write down how much time I spent progressing my business and what I worked on... so that the days when I'm feeling stressed I can look back and see how far I've come and be proud of our progress. I am a big fan of Pinch of Yum's Food Blogger Pro Podcast where they promote a saying called "1% infinity" and "Huge goals are the culmination of hundreds of small steps" and I really love this. It has helped me step back a bit and be ok with not being able to get everything done that I wanted to... as long as I keep moving forward. Definitely check out their podcast if you are looking for blogging advice. Even though they are a food blog, it is totally relatable for any niche and is one of my new favorite podcasts to listen to.
Point 1 leads me to my next takeaway: It is OK if you can't do "ALL OF THE THINGS". A lot of us starting out, we have full time jobs, partners, and adventures that are still big parts of our lives and time commitments. You may have a to-do list for improving your blog that is as long as the flight from Los Angelos to Singapore, but don't let it overwhelm you to the point that you don't keep moving forward. Ya sure, it would be nice to work on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest Followings everyday, but if that is overwhelming... pick one to work on! I focus most of my time to Instagram and Pinterest because I honestly just don't have time for anything else. Remember... microsteps... and one day we will find ourselves on the summit.
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.
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