Can you truly make money blogging? In my Blog Income Report for December 2019, I’m sharing my online business strategy tips and ideas that helped me earn nearly $20,000 in just one month online. A combination of Adthrive display ads on WordPress, affiliate marketing (read: passive income!) and digital course sales helped me reach my goals of being a full-time blogger.
Welcome back to our blog income reports! You might remember back in January 2018 we published our very first income report over on my blog, Root + Revel–it was actually for the entire year of 2017 (hint: I earned over $75,000 blogging in just my second year of blogging!).
It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging for just over 4 years now, and even more amazing that my income went from $6,500 in my first year of blogging to $150,000 in my third year (including $58,000 while on a four-month maternity leave), and I’m getting dangerously close to hitting my target of $200,000 in revenue in my fourth year. #fingerscrossed
I know sharing my income with you might seem a little crazy, but let me explain.
TLDR: If this isn’t your first rodeo and you’ve been following allowing with these income reports for a while, you can skip to the next section titled Total Income.
And they’ve inspired me so much, not only to know what’s possible in the world of blogging as a business, but also with their incredible ideas and generosity in sharing their mistakes and successes along the way.
And now, I want to return the favor. I feel like I’m at a point with Root + Revel where I have something valuable to share about making money online, something that I hope will help you learn how to make money doing something you love, something that lights you up every day and makes you excited to get to work, something you’re passionate about, something that impacts others for the better, something you can do from your couch in your jammies or on a beach in the Caribbean or at a desk in a co-working space at whatever dang time you please because YOU’RE YOUR OWN BOSS.
Please know, the goal of these income reports is not to brag or show off or pat myself on the back (though it’s always a good idea to celebrate your own successes, too!). Rather, my goal with these income reports is three-fold:
- to help anyone interested in starting a blog learn the ropes and find inspiration and motivation to be successful and change your life, whether that’s simply finding an outlet for your passion, improving your financial situation by making some extra money, or finally quitting your job and making six figures working for yourself. I hope that by sharing my own journey, my transparency and story might help you to achieve your dreams.
- to show fellow skeptics (hi, I used to be one of you when I was a full-time journalist who wrote for real publications and turned my nose up at bloggers who were running their blogs without integrity, transparency and a business mindset) that it IS possible to make money online and to do so while keeping your soul intact.
- to help myself. Yes, I’ll admit it. I do have some selfish motivation for publishing these income reports. Because quite honestly, it’s a great opportunity for me to reflect on my business, to look back and see what worked and what didn’t, to learn from my mistakes and to track my achievements.
I’ve been self-employed for nearly a decade at this point, but since I began blogging full-time in January of 2017, my life has exponentially improved.
I’m finally writing the stories that I want to tell, I’m finally helping others to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives, and I’m doing it ALL on my own terms.
I’m so proud and happy to report that life is so much better now that I’m truly my own boss and a full-time blogger. I look forward to each and every day–I wake up excited to work, I’m always learning something new and I love the challenge of running your own business, constantly coming up with new ways to monetize and help people, simultaneously.
Alright, enough talk. Let’s take a look at the numbers for December 2019.
Gross Income: $18,033.67
- AdThrive Ad Network, $3,516.00
- Affiliate Commissions, $7,792.46 (below are some of my most lucrative affiliates last month)
- Sponsored Content, $1,700.00
- 1:1 Business Coaching, $100
*Note: $18,033.67 is what I earned on an accrual basis, but I’ve recently started using Quickbooks and have switched over to the Cash method of accounting. So my revenue for December using the cash method was actually $21,788.32. I only mention this because now I only use the cash method for tracking expenses, and to compare apples to apples, I will be sharing those numbers below.
I’m changing up how I report my expenses a bit here to streamline and simplify. Instead of listing out the exact expenses for each item, I’m just going to list out some of my favorite resources and services that I use every month to help me keep the blog up, running and profitable.
- Active Campaign (this is how I email my list; I used to use ConvertKit)
- Foodie Digital: The SEO/tech firm who manages rootandrevel.com
- NerdPress: The tech genius who manages all the backend code for katekordsmeier.com
- Gusto: Payroll (super easy and incredible customer service)
- Quickbooks: Bookkeeping and invoicing software (save $100 off your first year with our link!)
- 238 Accounting: bookkeeping and money mindset coaching
- Leadpages: The tool I use to make opt-in pop-ups, forms, and landing pages
- Teachable: The best platform for creating online courses (like 6FBA)
- Crowdcast: An affordable platform for hosting webinars and live streaming videos.
- WP Recipe Maker: create cute recipes cards and essential for any recipe posts for SEO + organizing data
- Nutrifox: Allows you to create custom nutrition labels effortlessly
- Milotree: A smart pop-up to grow your email list, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest
- Food Blogger Pro: The very best online blogging school
- Audible: My favorite way to “read” business and personal development books (here are some of my faves!)
- Tailwind: The scheduler I use for Pinterest (Tribes + SmartLoop are great!)
- Bluehost: When you run a blog, you have to use a web host, which is like renting space online to display your blog. There are dozens of hosting services out there, but the best, cheapest and easiest option for beginning bloggers is Bluehost. Once my traffic reached 50,000 pageviews, I upgraded to a more expensive host. But if you’re just starting out, Bluehost is the way to go.
They’ve got a few different plans, but I recommend just starting with the Basic Plan for just $3.95/month (this is a special deal just for my readers; normally it’s $7.99/month). I also recommend choosing the 36-month plan, which will help you save money, too. Another way to save money? Sign up for eBates, the FREE cash back app that gives you extra money in your pocket! With Bluehost, you’ll get $10 cashback.
Even better? When you choose Bluehost, you can get your domain for free. Keep reading to find out how! Simply type in your desired domain to make sure nobody else has already taken it.
AAAAAAAAnd, with Bluehost, you’ll have WordPress automatically installed, and you can even pick a theme right away. To learn more about how to get started blogging, check out this 6-step guide we created for you!
*Note: I did not include my owner’s pay and taxes above, although I do pay myself a salary from Root + Revel’s gross revenue.
Net Profit: $8,955.57
After a few months in the red, I am SO excited to report that we are back in black for the 2nd month in a row!!
Whew! I know that’s a lot to take in. One of the things I hope people will takeaway from these reports is just how much work, energy, thought and heart goes into running a blog. It’s not just as simple as slapping up a few words and an iphone photo and pressing publish.
Before we get into the details, I also wanted to share my traffic totals for December 2019.
Traffic + Overall Growth
Traffic Overview: 137,925 pageviews (4.66% decrease since last month)
*Note: I’ve been talking a lot about the Google Medic/E-A-T update that took place this summer; it has really hurt my traffic, and thus my revenue. Before the update, I was getting around 225,000 pageviews per month. I lost over 70% of my organic search traffic after the update. But, we’ve started to see an increase in our traffic starting at the end of September, and our revenue has continued to increase since then as well. Fingers crossed this trend continues.
Top Ten Traffic Sources
*Note: My Facebook referral traffic shot way up (972.39%) because we’ve been running Facebook ads to our quiz and it’s working really well! But our Organic Search traffic, Pinterest traffic and direct traffic are down, so we’ll need to investigate this further.
Top 5 Posts on Root + Revel in December 2019:
- DIY Mold Remover: How to Get Rid of Black Mold Naturally (Without Bleach!)
- DIY Toilet Bombs
- How I Got Pregnant with PCOS on my First Try
- DIY Homemade Face Oil
- Keto Instant Pot Beef Stew
*Note: We saw a lot of changes in December in our top posts, with DIY recipes taking 3 of the top 5 spots. To help protect us from future Google algorithm updates, we’re planning to start doing 1-2 recipes per month in 2020 since that type of content is a bit more sheltered and less controversial than health content.
Email List: 824 new active email subscribers
Note: This screenshot comes from my dashboard in Active Campaign.
My goal for 2019 was to get 1,000 new subscribers per month and over the last few months it’s been really difficult to track real subscribers because we’ve been dealing with a ton of bots that are totally throwing our numbers. In terms of new active subscribers for Root + Revel, we actually only grew by 824 contacts, so we feel just shy of our goal. My team and I have been talking about how we really need to refocus our efforts on our R+R email list, as our open rates have been falling and after pruning over 10,000 people from our list, we’re ready for a fresh start, a brand new Welcome Series and lots more value for our cherished subscribers.
The good news is that the Kate Kordsmeier email list has been growing like gangbusters thanks to some killer Facebook ads we set up. We grew by over 3,000 new active subscribers last month and the engagement has been incredible!
Some other cool stats: our highest open rates come on Sundays, Fridays, and Mondays. Our best times to send: 11 am EST (by a landslide!), followed by 12 PM, 9 AM and 1 PM. My top opt-in was for my Library of Resources, followed by my 99-Step Roadmap to Profitable Blogging, DIY Cleaning eBook, Green Beauty Swaps and PCOS Recipe Guide.
I get all of these reports in Active Campaign which is easily one of the very best email service providers around! One thing that Active Campaign offers now is Predictive Sending (they’ll send your emails at the most optimal time for each individual subscriber), which I know has increased our open rates as many of our customer automations have over a 60% open rate. My goal this year was to increase my open rate to 25% so we’re well on our way. Last month, we averaged around 26.91% open rate across the board. Whoop! That being said, our weekly R+R newsletters have had significantly lower open rates lately, closer to 6% so hopefully that big purge of bots and inactive subscribers will help us increase that in 2020. It can be brutal to prune your list so religiously, but it’s always worth it to make sure you’re only emailing your true fans, and not paying for subscribers who aren’t active.
I also wanted to increase my click rate to 5%. Last month, our average click rate was 14.42%, so we have FINALLY met (and FAR exceeded!) our goal. Happy dance!
Another goal I set is reducing our unsubscribe rate. For R+R we lost about 134 contacts per day, and just 11 contacts per day for KK, which is really low, and our average unsubscribe rate for all campaigns was just 0.48%. So I’m really proud of that!
Domain Authority: 53 (no change from last month) for R+R; 22 for KK
This is a new metric I’m adding to my income reports, as SEO is such a focus for us right now and I want to track how our efforts are working.
Note: DA is a ranking metric developed by Moz that predicts how well a site will rank on Google, and is measured on a scale of 1 to 100. The closer you are to 100, the more traffic and better ranking you’ll have.
RPM: $130.75 ($8.48 less than last month)
Note: RPM stands for Revenue Per Mille, or the revenue earned per 1,000 pageviews. When you look at RPM, you put the focus on optimizing your revenue as efficiently as possible, rather than just getting the most people to your site. For example, a site with 100,000 pageviews and a $1 RPM makes $100, while a site with 20,000 pageviews and a $10 RPM makes $200. This is good news because it means you don’t have to have TONS of traffic to make a great income. In fact, when you niche down and focus on providing as much value as possible to your current audience, you earn more money.
What I Focused on in December 2019
Running a blog is a TON of work and each month I feel like I could fill an entire notebook with “what I focused on” details. But for everyone’s sanity’s sake, I’m going to keep this list simple and straightforward, and talk about the 3 key areas we focused on in November.
- Pre-Launch Runway for 6FBA: I’ve mentioned in the past few income reports how I’ve been experimenting and learning about digital course launches for my course, the Six-Figure Blog Academy, and after joining Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy and attending her live event in October, I knew that creating a pre-launch runway for our upcoming January launch of 6FBA was going to be the key to our success. The goal is namely to grow our email list with SUPER targeted potential customers by offering them weekly content jam-packed with value. So, in addition to our blog posts, I’ve been hosting weekly Facebook Live trainings in our new Facebook group, where I’ve been talking about everything from the 6 Types of Profitable Blogs to How a Blog Can Create Freedom, Flexibility + Fulfillment (AND LOTS OF $$$), sharing a Behind the Scenes look at a day in the life of a “Blogging Business” and more! This worked out so well and we’ve grown the group a ton in the past month, from 134 to 313 members (a 82% increase!). We’ve also increased engagement in the group, with a 16% increase in the number of posts, plus 102% more Comments, and 86% more Reactions. YES! Come join us–it’s an incredible community. Also, as part of my pre-launch runway, I set up some Facebook Ads to grow my list. I set up one ad for our 99-Step Roadmap and another ad for our Blogger Quiz, and they both converted like gangbusters. Check this out:
They say a good cost per lead is $3-$5 and we were able to get leads as low as $0.41. Amazing!! I’m going to be very interested to see how these leads convert during our January launch, but in terms of growing our list at a super affordable price, I’m very pleased! What questions do you have about FB Ads? While I’m far from an expert, I’d be happy to answer what I can in next month’s income report.
The rest of December was spent getting all of our email funnels and promotions and webinars set up for our January launch. I think the new year is going to be an amazing time to launch the course again, BUT one thing I didn’t think all the way through was that a January launch would mean that the prep would happen over the holidays, which was really difficult timing for my team. In the future, I would start prepping WAY earlier and aim to have everything ready to go before Christmas so we can all enjoy more time with our families and loved ones.
- Beautycounter: I also put a large focus on Beautycounter in December with a goal of hitting Director again (that’s $10,000 in sales) and WE DID IT! In fact, we sold over $13,000 and if I can do it again this month, I’ll get a $1,000 bonus. One of the reasons this is so cool is because of the paycheck–in December I brought in $2,000 from Beautycounter–but I’m also super excited about hitting this milestone because it means I get to attend their LEAD Conference in March, which is going to be such a great way to network with likeminded women and build that community. Since community, connection and getting out of the work-from-home isolation is one of my top priorities right now, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have this opportunity. Interested in learning more about Beautycounter? Go here!
Goals for January 2020
Alright, I’m gonna wrap up here and just let you know that my plans for next month center around Launch #3 of the Six-Figure Blog Academy, which includes a new sales page, email funnels, webinar and more. I’m playing a BIG game this year–my goal for this launch is 100 new students and $100,000+. I can’t wait to report back and let you know how it went.
In January, I am also starting a mastermind with 11 beautiful women as part of Kate Northrup’s Origin Mastermind and I couldn’t be more excited to continue to build my community and learn from these gorgeous souls. I’ll also be continuing my work of doing less, delegating more and growing my team as I work on letting go of control and limiting beliefs and really stepping into the visionary role of my business. I feel so much better, lighter and happier already!
Convinced you need to jump on the blogging train? Get started with our free quiz below!
Each month, I feature one question from a reader. But sadly we didn’t get any questions last month. We did, however, receive an amazing testimonial from one of my 6FBA students so I want to take a minute to do a student spotlight. This comes from Lisa from thisorganicgirl, who (after implementing what she learned in 6FBA) had her first six-figure year ever! Go Lisa!!
For next month, please leave a comment below if you have a question that you would like me to answer.
It’s All Thanks to You!
Please know, I am keenly aware that I have the flexibility, freedom and finances to work on this blog as my full-time job because of YOU–dear reader, sharer, Pinner, commenter, Liker, customer or silent follower of Root + Revel. Your support and participation in the R+R community reaches beyond just this website.
This month, I donated to Nicholas House in your name, as I am so blown away by their incredible mission and want to do as much as I can to help these families make the transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency.
I love the structured but home-like environment that requires they earn a living wage, maintain the physical, mental and social health of parents and children, and maintain safe and stable housing. They’re also highly rated on CharityNavigator for their accountability, transparency, and performance. Join me, won’t you?
I am so incredibly grateful for you. Thanks for showing up!