Can you truly make money blogging? In my Online Business Income Report for January 2020, I’m sharing my online business strategy tips and ideas that helped me earn nearly $118,000 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 and online entrepreneur.
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 December 2019.
Gross Income: $117,497.93
- AdThrive Ad Network, $2,694.00
- Affiliate Commissions, $9,349.29 (below are some of my most lucrative affiliates last month)
- Sponsored Content, $2,700.00
- 1:1 Business Coaching, $300.00
*Note: $117,497.93 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.
*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: $75,359.78
HOLY MOLY! I cannot believe that we had our first ever six-figure MONTH and I just have to stop and take a minute to celebrate this huge milestone because we worked our buns off for it! I am so grateful and humbled and energized to make 2020 our best year ever!
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: 152,886 pageviews (10.85% increase since last month) on rootandrevel.com
*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 on rootandrevel.com
Top 5 Posts on Root + Revel in January 2020:
- DIY Mold Remover: How to Get Rid of Black Mold Naturally (Without Bleach!)
- Keto Instant Pot Beef Stew
- How I Got Pregnant with PCOS on my First Try
- DIY Homemade Face Oil
- The Best Online Organic Meat Delivery Sources
Email List: 1,549 new active email subscribers on R+R’s email list and 4,123 new active email subscribers on KK‘s email list
Note: This screenshot comes from my dashboard in Active Campaign.
We’ve put a big focus on growing KK’s email list and spent about $1,800 on Facebook ads over the last 90 days to grow our list by about 5,500 new subscribers. We’ve been getting an incredible cost per lead and will be spending the next few months analyzing whether or not those leads became customers. 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.
While we haven’t run any ads to grow our R+R email list, we did hit our goal of 1,000+ new active email subscribers per month, which is great since this is all organic growth! That said, we did a HUGE list prune of 10,000+ contacts so our list is looking smaller than before, but also way more engaged and active, which is what really matters.
Our 2020 goal is to grow our combined lists to 35,000 active and engaged subscribers. After just one month, we’re already at 16,719, nearly 48% of our goal. So I’m feeling VERY optimistic 🙂
Some other cool stats: our highest open rates come on Fridays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Mondays. Our best times to send: 11 am EST (by a landslide!), followed by 12 PM, 1 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, Green Beauty Swaps and Healing Naturally Cheatsheet .
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.
Last month, we averaged around 25.26% open rate across the board. Whoop! Meanwhile, after our big purge of 10,000+ subscribers, our weekly R+R newsletters has increased back to around 14%–still shy of our goal of 25% but moving in the right direction now. 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.
Domain Authority: 53 (no change from last month) for R+R; 27 for KK (up from 22 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: $96.43 (*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.
Online Business Takeaways
What I Focused on in January 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 November.
- Launch of 6FBA: We completed our third launch of the Six-Figure Blog Academy and OH. EM. GEE did it go so well! We enrolled 89 new students, made over $100,000 in gross revenue, hosted 4 live webinars, a handful of Facebook and IG Lives, sent dozens of emails and man, it paid off. Was it totally exhausting? Yes! Was it totally worth it? HELL YES! A more detailed debrief is coming but for now I will just say that I owe all of the success of this launch to both my team, our affiliates and Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy, which we used to inform our entire marketing strategy. If you missed your chance to enroll, you can always sign up for our waitlist here.
- Creating our V/TO: After reading the book, Traction, I spent all my free time in January that wasn’t dedicated to 6FBA working on our V/TO, Vision/Traction Organizer™, a powerful tool to help you simplify the strategic planning process, getting your vision out of your head and onto paper. This included lots of LOOOONG team meetings where we discussed everything from our core values to our 10-year goals for the company and everything in between. I created an accountability chart for my company, hired a full-time Integrator, gave everybody VERY clear and defined roles and jobs, implemented weekly team meetings, and had a lot of really hard conversations that were worth every second of potential awkwardness. I’ve been talking for the past few months about really stepping into the CEO/Visionary role in my business, growing my team, creating a company culture I can be proud of and that motivates my team, and that was a huge focus in January, with all of those details finally getting wrapped up by months end. I cannot wait to see what all of this clarity brings through the rest of this year.
Online Business Goals for February 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 February:
- Host my How to Finally Start Your Blog Live, 2-hour Workshop
- Complete Pat Flynn’s Power Up Podcasting course and start the Success with Soul podcast.
- Complete Amy Porterfield’s Evergreen training and begin to set this up for 6FBA for while I’m on maternity leave.
- Continue hiring specific expert contractors to build out our complete team
Convinced you need to jump on the blogging train? Get started with our free quiz below!
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 Anna Dey:
I finally started 🙂 I’ve been wanting to do this blog for a few years now, and finally felt the inspiration to join, buy my domain/reserve the Insta name, and start writing. Just feeling super happy that my muse has returned and I am listening!
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 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!