How do blogs make money? In my Blog Income Report for February 2020, I’m sharing my online business strategy tips and ideas that helped me earn $23,713.26 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 and online entrepreneur.
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Welcome back to our online business 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) to nearly $200,000 in my fourth year, and I’m on target to hit my goal of $650,000 in annual revenue in year five. #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 February 2020.
How do blogs make money?
Gross Income: $23,713.26
- AdThrive Ad Network, $2,609.00
- Affiliate Commissions, $9,639.81 (below are some of my most lucrative affiliates last month)
- Sponsored Content, $0.00
- 1:1 Business Coaching, $450.00
*Note: $23,624.45 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. I only mention this because I use the cash method for tracking expenses, which I share 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)
- Demio: An affordable and incredibly robust platform for hosting webinars, group coaching, 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
- 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 $2.95/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. However I did include expenses for affiliate payouts since we used affiliates to help us sell 6FBA.
Net Profit: $124
Coming off of our first ever six-figure MONTH last month, it was hard to swallow a month where our profit was only $124 BEFORE I even paid myself. But the good news is that it’s all evening out and we’re still way in the black for the year (2 months in, ha!) with lots of new revenue generating projects happening in April and beyond. Basically what happened is that we paid out all of our affiliates from January in February and some other expenses related to our course launch (plus hiring a new full-time employee), so on an accrual basis, we had a much larger profit, but on a cash basis, it looks like much less.
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.
Blog Traffic + Online Business Growth
*Note: Moving forward I’m only tracking traffic for my blog, rootandrevel.com. My personal brand, katekordsmeier.com, is not included in the traffic totals below since we are not currently monetizing the blog component, though I do track email list growth as that’s the primary way we make money.
Traffic Overview: 133,591 pageviews (-12.62% decrease since last month) on rootandrevel.com
Top Ten Traffic Sources on rootandrevel.com
Note: I’m interested to see that our Google traffic is down again (will have to look into this), as well as our Direct traffic, and Facebook referral traffic.
Top 5 Posts on Root + Revel in February 2020:
- DIY Mold Remover: How to Get Rid of Black Mold Naturally (Without Bleach!)
- How I Got Pregnant with PCOS on my First Try
- Keto Instant Pot Beef Stew
- The truth about PCOS Diets
- How to Reverse PCOS + Leaky Gut Naturally
Email List: 391 new active email subscribers on R+R’s email list and 1,844 new active email subscribers on KK‘s email list
Note: This screenshot comes from my dashboard in Active Campaign.
The bots are back at it again, so while this shows we had over 2,000 new subscribers to R+R’s list, nearly all of those were bots and not active and engaged contacts. But there is good news about actual active contacts:
Our 2020 goal is to grow our combined lists to 35,000 active and engaged subscribers. After just two months, we’re already at 19,092, nearly 55% of our goal. So I’m feeling VERY optimistic 🙂
Some other cool stats: our highest open rates come on Tuesdays, Sundays, Fridays and Mondays. Our best times to send: 11 am EST (by a landslide!), followed by 12 PM, 2 PM and 9 AM. My top opt-in was for my 99-Step Roadmap to Profitable Blogging, follow by my Library of Resources, PCOS Recipe Guide, Pantry Checklist, and DIY Cleaning eBook.
I get all of these reports in Active Campaign which is easily one of the very best email service providers around! One of my favorite features Active Campaign offers 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.
Last month, we created all new Welcome Series by segment for our R+R list to boost open rates. We went from a 24.95% open rate and 4.89% click through rate to now a 43.65% open rate (on average across the 5 new automations) with a 15.63% click rate. How amazing is that? By providing our subscribers with more customized, targeted and valuable content, we were able to improve our results! Win win!
I’ll keep you posted in the coming months whether this translates to an increase in affiliate income and blog traffic (and thus ad income). Fingers crossed!
Domain Authority: 53 (no change from last month) for R+R; 26 for KK (down from 27 last month)
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: $91.02 (*note this is only for R+R income and traffic, not KK)
My goal for 2020 was to increase R+R’s RPM to $125, so we’ve got a ways to go, but I’m confident we can do it! This RPM is for our entire site, not just ads.
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 February 2020
Running a blog and online business 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 February.
- Preparing to launch my new podcast: Ahhh! I am so stinking excited to share that I spent most of February taking Pat Flynn’s Power Up Podcasting course and planning out all of the content and strategy for my own podcast, Success with Soul. It’s officially launching April 16th and I have been busting my butt to get over 20 episodes recorded before I head out on maternity leave so that I can roll out weekly episodes while I’m off. But it has been SO fun! We hired an amazing production company to help us out so basically all I have to do is record the episode and send it off to them and they do everything else, including editing, graphics, show notes, etc. I spent hours agonizing over the cover art and music and voiceover opener and finally landed on something I absolutely love. I bought all of my recording equipment and I have to say, I haven’t been this energized about work since I first launched 6FBA. Interested in joining our podcast launch team? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line SWS LAUNCH TEAM and we’ll give you the deets!
- Host my How to Start a Blog Workshop: When I wasn’t working on the podcast, I was prepping for this live, two-hour workshop where I help you get your blog set up from day zero (I don’t even know what I want to blog about), including all of the nitty gritty tech pieces. I had so much fun connecting with the group who joined us live, and we invited our current 6FBA students to join us for free, so it was a super engaging workshop and I loved hearing from so many of my students who finally got their blogs set up the right way and have already started earning some extra income. You can get the recording here!
- Reviewing Financials: A lot of February was also spent working with my CPA and bookkeeper to review 2019 financials, get my taxes done, make projections for 2020 and come up with a plan for expenses, hiring and revenue generation. I’m so lucky to have such an incredible team to work with, and as stressful as it can be to figure out the money of your business, it is SO worth it to take the time to do so. My bookkeeper is also my money mindset coach and she’s come on in a larger role (basically a virtual CFO) to help us make our financial systems more seamless. One of her main roles is to help us track affiliate income, both what we earn each month AND making sure we actually get paid out on those earnings. It’s a HUGE process and having one person take it over from start to finish is going to make things so much easier!
- Self-Care: In February I also had some pregnancy challenges–in addition to just being exhausted and uncomfortable, I struggle with low blood pressure and actually ended up passing out at a workshop one morning. Fortunately, I was totally okay but it did require that I spent the next 4 days on bed rest. I’m so lucky to be able to work from bed, though I will admit there was a lot of Netflix, reading for pleasure and just straight up napping that happened too. But it was so important for me to do this–as my mentor Kate Northrup says: body first, business second. So I gave my body what it needed, which was lots of rest, epsom salt baths, and just slowing down. As I write this report now, we are in full on quarantine mode for COVID-19, so this trend has definitely extended into March. And while it’s had its challenges, I do think it’s been a good reminder to slow down and focus on what really matters.
Blog Income Goals for March 2020
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because I can’t share too many of the details just yet. But here’s a sneak peek of what’s coming in March:
- Record the first 12 episodes of my new Success with Soul podcast
- Finalize our evergreen set up for 6FBA for while I’m on maternity leave
- Hire a virtual marketing assistant
- Find more guest contributors for Root + Revel…wanna write for us? Apply here!
Convinced you need to jump on the blogging train? Get started with our free quiz below!
Blog Income Featured Question:
Each month, I feature one question about online business 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 Tisha Riman:
I have absolutely loved this course–I devoured all of it in a matter of days, and then went back and started implementing changes. Prior to the course, I felt I lacked direction, and after taking so many other courses, I thought I was doing everything right–and was getting little to no traffic, let alone monetization. Since taking 6FBA I realized there was tons of things I was lacking, and quickly started making changes to my blog. In the month that I’ve been in the course, I’ve been offered a monthly contract with a health food brand, I’ve doubled my traffic, I’ve seen an increase in email subscribers and instagram followers, and I finally have a game plan. I’ve started batching my content, and having weekly deadlines, and the routine is definitely paying off. I recommend this course for anyone who felt they were doing everything right to no avail (chances are, you’re not). While you don’t have to be a healthy lifestyle niche to benefit from this course, for me this was what sealed the deal–getting very concrete examples of where to focus my energy. The payment plan is also been a great way to take this course when you’re on a tight budget (like I am). Overall, I’ve loved the course, and I’m excited to see where it takes me! The biggest asset this course has is it gives you an action plan like none I’ve ever seen (love the checklist). Every time I get distracted and don’t know what to do next, I look at the checklist and it gives me a direction. Since taking the course, I’ve pitched more brands, I’ve collaborated with other bloggers, I’ve improved my Pinterest strategy. This course takes out so much of the overwhelm and I feel like it actually just gave me a game plan.
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 and online business 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 The Giving Kitchen in your name, as supporting our local restaurant industry during this pandemic is so important. TGK provides emergency assistance to food service workers through financial support and a network of community resources. If you’re in Atlanta, I hope you’ll join me in supporting those in the hospitality industry who always take such good care of us!
I am so incredibly grateful for you. Thanks for showing up!