In this monthly Traffic + Income Report, we’re looking back on January 2018 at what worked, what didn’t, what lessons we can learn and how we can best move forward to achieve our dreams. I’ll also share my business strategy and tips that made me $7,500 blogging in one month.
Welcome to Root + Revel’s very first monthly traffic + income report! You might remember last month we published an annual income report for 2017 (hint: I earned over $75,000 blogging in my second year!).
But, as promised, moving forward I’m going to be sharing monthly reports so we can dive deeper into the every day of running a blogging business.
I know this might seem a little crazy to you, but let me explain.
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.
I finally 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 2016, 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 January 2018…
Total Income: $7,534.92
- Mediavine Ad Network, $1,420.06
- Affiliate Commissions, $3,887.61
- Aillea $12.20
- Amazon $589.13
- Beautycounter $36.18
- Butcher Box $1,600.00
- Dry Farm Wines $151.12
- Intelligent Blends $5.31
- Love Goodly $10.20
- MightyNest $18.00
- Philosophie $7.10
- Reward Style $41.40
- SunBasket $40.00
- Thrive Market $100.00
- Ultimate Bundle $157.50
- US Wellness Meats $406.11
- Vital Proteins $15.96
- The Blog Village $59.80
- Credo Beauty $20.60
- Be More With Less $10.00
- Real Plans $7.00
- Viome $600.00
- Sponsored Content, $2,000.00
- Superfood Green Smoothies eBook, $27.25
- Coaching, $200.00
Total Expenses: $4,484.94
- Social Media Management $1,000.00
- Virtual Assistant $2,428.76
- Video Editing $150.00
- Groceries for Recipe Development $144.09
- Website/Tech/Tools $271.17 (this includes tools like Tailwind, VaultPress, and Milotree, my hosting service Cloudways, and my tech manager, The Blog Tutor)
- Ads $356.99
- Courses + Education $99.00 (this includes Food Blogger Pro, The Blog Village, Melyssa Griffin and more)
- Office Supplies + Networking $34.93 (this includes resources like Texture and Audible)
- Adobe Creative Suite $9.99 (this is what I use to edit photos)
Net Profit: $3,049.98
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 January. I am SO excited to announce that I finally broke the 100,000 pageviews per month threshold!
Traffic Overview: 125,814 pageviews for the month
Top Ten Traffic Sources
Top 5 Posts on Root + Revel Last Month:
- How I Reversed my PCOS, Leaky Gut + Insulin Resistance Naturally!
- DIY Charcoal + Clay Face Mask for Acne and Blackheads
- DIY Mold Remover: How to Get Rid of Black Mold Naturally (Without Bleach!)
- A Butter Coffee Recipe to Balance Hormones + Improve Digestion
- Top 7 Sources for Organic Grass-Fed Meat Delivery
*Note: This screenshot comes from my dashboard in The Blog Village, a membership site that helps bloggers monetize their blogs. This tracking tool is my favorite part of the site!
**Note: This screenshot comes from my dashboard in ConvertKit.
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.
Hourly Rate: I worked on the blog for a total of 125 hours in January. With a gross income of $7,534.92, that means I earned roughly $60 per hour. Not too shabby!
If you look at my net income instead, my hourly rate drops to about $25/hour, which is far below my goal of $100 per hour. But more on that below.
What I Focused on This Month
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 focus on the three main things I worked on this month:
- Cutting Costs: I know it may not seem like it, but I took the month of January to find areas where I can cut costs and save some money.
- After months of working with a few social media firms, I decided to drop my Pinterest manager ($375/month) and my Instagram growth firm ($800/month) by the end of January. With Pinterest, my traffic had plateaued for a solid year and I felt like it was time to try something new. So I started using Board Booster after months of wanting to try it. So far, I love it! Instead of spending hours each week scheduling pins, you can loop pins and set it and forget it with Board Booster. After 1 month of use, my Pinterest referral traffic went from a high of around 11,000 sessions per month to nearly 17,000 sessions per month. And now, instead of $375/month, I’m spending $30/month. So far, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. (UPDATE September 2018: Board Booser no longer exists and only official partners like Tailwind can work with Pinterest.)
- Likewise, I worked with an INCREDIBLE Instagram firm to grow my account from 8,000 followers to 55,000 followers in 6 months! And I am so grateful for their help as I know it would’ve taken me years to get there on my own. Plus, I despise social media and prefer to spend as little time there as I possibly can. In fact, Instagram is a constant internal battle for me because I know brands love to do sponsored posts there and I know it can be a great way to connect and engage with your audience on a deeper level, which I want to do. However, it takes an ungodly amount of time and I hate feeling like I have to be attached to my phone all day, missing being in the present moment and constantly documenting the mundane details of my life. After I attended ShiftCon last week, I gained a lot of clarity with this struggle of mine and realized that my #1 goal is to help people. I don’t care about how many followers I have or how many comments each post gets. I care about helping people, and for me, I don’t think Instagram is the best way to do that. It feels too superficial, too forced and it’s way to easy to get caught in the comparison trap and become obsessed with numbers. So, now that I have a great base, I’ve decided to just grow slowly and organically moving forward on my own, without paying for help. We’ll see how this affects my account and treasured readers moving forward.
- Driving Traffic: Just like Pinterest, I had been stuck around 50-60,000 pageviews for an entire year. And while I hate to focus too much on the numbers, I was growing so frustrated not seeing any growth. So by adjusting my Pinterest strategy, really honing in on SEO and trying out a new ad network, I was finally able to break through and reach 125,000 pageviews (my first month EVER over 100,000). To say I’m excited is a huge understatement!
- So first, SEO. A few posts of mine have finally taken off on Google and I definitely attribute that to some of the SEO strategies I learned from Food Blogger Pro. My DIY posts have always ranked really well (likely because there’s so much less competition), but now my butter coffee recipe, meat delivery roundup and Keto recipes are helping to drive a lot of search traffic.
- I also started experimenting with Outbrain, which is basically an advertising platform that shares your content on a bunch of other HUGE sites. You set the cost per click (I have mine to $0.05) and they promote your content and drive traffic back to your blog. So far, I’m loving it and having much better luck with it than facebook ads. I’ve spent about $425 and in return have received over 5,000 sessions. I still need to dig into the analytics and really understand what these people do when they come to my site, if they join my email list, read more than one post, follow me on social, etc. But I figure I need about a month’s worth of data to really get a clear picture. More next month!
- Also, one thing worth noting is that increased traffic doesn’t always mean increased income. For example, in December I had 80,000 pageviews and my ad income was $1,320.63. Then in January I had 125,000 pageviews and my ad income was just $1,420.06. Now this is mainly because Q1 is a really low ad spend month for brands, but it was a good note that maybe I shouldn’t focus so much on pageviews and instead just focus on providing value. The money will follow, I truly believe.
- Diversifying Income: As many of you noted in your comments on my annual income report for 2017, a HUGE bulk of my income last year came from sponsored posts ($53,882.50 to be exact, which was over 70% of my income). This really scared me, as I don’t like to ever have one source of income be that high. It could go away tomorrow and then what? Plus, with sponsored content, you’re trading time for dollars, meaning it’s not scalable. So I spent a lot of January backing off from sponsored content and putting that time into more scalable projects, like affiliates, my email list, and my own products. I launched a Business Series for anyone who wants to learn how to make money online and/or start their own thing (you can join here!) and within that, I released a new eBook and plan to launch a few more products and courses there as well. Likewise, I finally got around to launching my Membership Site, Root + Revel HQ. It’s in Beta Mode right now, but I knew I just needed to start it and I’m constantly reminding myself that done is better than perfect, that I can evolve and change the site as I get feedback from my beta testers and that I don’t have to keep waiting until everything is just so.
Goals for February 2018
- Continue working with Beta Testers on Root + Revel HQ and launching the next phases, like Meal Plans, Live Q&As and Video Courses.
- Continue adding to my scalable services for my Business Series with webinars, coaching and products.
- Continue ramping up affiliates by adding static reviews, unboxing videos and tutorials, an updated resources page and special emails for my subscribers.
Featured Question: Last month, I shared how I’ll be featuring one question from a reader in each monthly income report. Here’s the question from last month:
Where do you find the folks to create your team to help with things that are not your strong suit, i.e. marketing, social media, editing, etc. How do you get competitive rates? How did you go about finding all the people that you have hired to help you?
Such a great question!! So, the short answer is: I sent an email to my list and posted on social media that I was hiring and I got dozens of applications.
From there, I picked about a dozen that looked the strongest and had them complete a skills test, which was basically just some of the tasks that I’d need their help with once hired. This was really great at weeding out those applicants who didn’t have enough experience, as I really didn’t have the time to train somebody.
After the skills test, I had Skype interviews with my top candidates and from there, I landed on my current business manager, Sarah. She is a total godsend and I’d be lost without her!
So I definitely recommend asking your audience. You’d be surprised how many people are skilled in something you may need and dying to work with you. I know I was!
In terms of competitive rates, I think that if you’re asking for more than just admin help (which I was), you need to pay at least $20/hour. But because I really wanted this person to be a member of my team and be personally invested in our growth and success, I decided to pay a flat monthly fee, PLUS a commission bonus for signing new sponsors, getting press/podcast placements to drive traffic back to the blog, and bringing in affiliate commissions.
I’m a big fan of incentivizing employees as it’s a win-win for everybody!
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 the Environmental Working Group in your name.
I am so incredibly grateful for you! Thanks for showing up ????
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no extra cost to you when you purchase through my links.