How do lifestyle blogs make money? In my Blog Income Report for March 2020, I’m sharing how to start a successful lifestyle blog that can run itself. I should know! I earned $23,491.76 in just one month from a combination of Adthrive display ads on WordPress, affiliate marketing (read: passive income!) and sponsored content.
This post is sponsored by Bluehost. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make it possible for us to provide free content and blogging business inspiration.
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 March 2020.
How do lifestyle blogs make money?
Note: In the past, I’ve included income streams like my digital course, 1:1 coaching and other products I sell on my site katekordsmeier.com; but I’ve been giving these income reports some thought lately and I think it’s too complicated measuring two separate businesses in one place. So for this income report, I am only looking at what I earned from my blog, rootandrevel.com.
Gross Income: $23,491.76
- AdThrive Ad Network, $2,517.00
- Affiliate Commissions, $17,174.76 (below are some of my most lucrative affiliates last month)
- Sponsored Content, $3,800.00
*Note: $23,491.76 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
- 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
- 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
- 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!
Net Profit: $22,319.06
One of the reasons I wanted to separate out KK.com from R+R for these income reports is because the vast majority of my expenses are for KK, but in these reports, since they were both combined it looked like it took a lot more to run my wellness blog than it really did.
As you can see, my blog is almost pure profit. When you take out the cost of the labor it takes to work on the site (which is nearly impossible to put a price on anyway), we kept 95% of R+R’s earnings as our expenses are incredibly low to keep the site up and running. I hope this will serve as a beautiful reminder to any newbies out there who get overwhelmed thinking that starting and running a blog is super expensive and requires a lot of money.
Before we get into the details, I also wanted to share my traffic totals for March 2020.
Lifestyle Blog Traffic + 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.
Traffic Overview: 139,606 pageviews (a 4.5% increase since last month) on rootandrevel.com
Top Ten Traffic Sources on rootandrevel.com
Note: Last month, our Google traffic and Direct traffic was down, but it came back up again in March. A good reminder that the internet is fluid and not to panic and the first sign of change.
Top 5 Posts on Root + Revel in March 2020:
- Top Sources for Organic Meat Delivery
- DIY Mold Remover: How to Get Rid of Black Mold Naturally (Without Bleach!)
- How I Got Pregnant with PCOS on my First Try
- DIY Turmeric Honey Face Mask
- How to Stock a Healthy Pantry
**Note: Our top 5 posts changed pretty drastically in March, and it’s obvious this is due to the fact that the current global pandemic has affected people’s searching habits. Food delivery, stocking a pantry and DIY recipes you can make at home replaced several of our long-time top posts; as a result, our affiliate income also shot way up as these posts are heavily monetized with affiliate links. While it was amazing to see this spike, many of our affiliate partners have run out of supply, so I do expect there to be a stark drop-off in affiliate income for April. We’re getting creative and trying to figure out how we can best serve our audience during this time!
Email List: 464 new active email subscribers on R+R’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 9,000 new subscribers to R+R’s list, nearly all of those were bots and not active and engaged contacts. Fortunately, I know where these bots are coming from and have made that form a double opt-in, so they never get confirmed and affect the number of subscribers we are paying for.
Some other cool stats: our highest open rates come on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Our best times to send: 11 am EST (by a landslide!), followed by 12 PM, and 9 AM. My top opt-in was for my Library of Resources, followed by my Pantry Checklist, DIY Cleaning eBook, and 7-day green smoothie challenge.
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 automations have over a 60% open rate.
Domain Authority: 53 (no change from last month) for R+R
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: $222.48 (*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 blew this out of the water, due to the spike in affiliate earnings we saw last month. 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.
Lifestyle Blogging Takeaways
What I Focused on in March 2020
Normally, this is the part where I say that 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 I’m going to be honest… after 4 years of running my blog, Root + Revel, it is a self-sufficient, well-oiled machine at this point.
Meaning, it doesn’t require a whole lot of work from me anymore. Could I do more? Yes, of course. But my focus lately has been on my new podcast, Success with Soul, and creating digital products over at KK.com. Root + Revel?? It kinda runs itself at this point with very minimal effort from my team and me.
How did I get here? Well, we have an archive of hundreds and hundreds of quality posts that are optimized for SEO and perform well on both Google and Pinterest. So people find us pretty easily. Those posts are well monetized with affiliate links, so we earn money on them long after they were first published.
And we have many ways for our readers to join our email list, where we have 5 different nurture series that we send our subscribers based on what they’re interested in. These email auto-responders are also optimized with affiliate links and value so our subscribers feel loved and supported on their journey.
We do still publish new posts to R+R once a week, but most of these are either sponsored content (read: additional revenue), repairing a previously published post to better optimize for SEO, or a guest post. Want to write for R+R? Apply here.
It’s not to say that we don’t spend any time on the blog anymore, rather that we have a lot of great systems in place now so that it can more or less run itself with minimal input from me and my team. We do send out a few email newsletters each week, like our Weekly Wellness Wrap Up and the Whole Soul List, and of course we’re always working to increase our Google and Pinterest referral traffic. We still post on Instagram and engage with our community there, and in some of our private Facebook Groups, like Better Beauty.
But even if we didn’t, I think the blog is in a place now where it would still earn a pretty substantial income without much input from us at all. As I’m heading out on maternity leave in just a couple short weeks, this is giving me huge peace of mind and making me consider what I want to do with the site when I return. Exciting stuff!
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 blogging from a reader. Last month, we received this question from Kristina:
Great recap, yet again! I’ve found that the native signup forms on ActiveCampaign end up letting in a HUGE amount of bots, so I’ve switched everything over to ThriveLeads and it cleared it up. The only native sign up form I have is pointed to MailChimp and then Zapier adds them to my ActiveCampaign. It’s a hassle though…have you found out what works to diminish through the native AC forms?
So, Kristina, I’ll be honest and say I’m not familiar with ThriveLeads but that sounds like a lot of extra steps. What I’ve found that works is that in ActiveCampaign, I identified which forms the bot subscribers were coming in from. In my case, it was just my main Library of Resources of form. I made that form a double opt-in confirmation that requires the subscriber click a link in an email to confirm they really want to be on the list.
Obviously, bots won’t do this. So it never officially adds them to my email list, and instead they get stuck in a “unconfirmed” status. Then once a month, I go through that list and just delete all of those unconfirmed subscribers. I’m never charged for them as you’re only charged for your active contacts, and they don’t muddy up my open rates this way.
Give that a try because using 3 other tools to just get subscribers to your email service provider seems way too complicated. I hope that helps!
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 Center for Disaster Philanthropy, a charity that has earned a 4-star Charity Navigator rating, and has a COVID-19 Response Fund. This fund allows donors to give now to support preparedness, containment, response and recovery activities.
I am so incredibly grateful for you. Thanks for showing up!