Welcome back to my blogging experiment!
As you may already know, in January, I started a brand new blog with the goal of seeing if I can make money through blogging within a year. Every month, I share a list of the things I’ve been doing to try and move the blogging needle toward profitability, as well as real figures on how it’s going (is traffic growing? Am I showing up in Google?).
This, as you’ve probably guessed, is the latest in that series: a deep look at what I did to make money blogging in March 2019.
If you haven’t been following along, may I suggest you start at the beginning? You’ll find my start-to-finish process from month one there, as well as a link to month two’s review.
And now, month three. What did I work on in March? Are my numbers still on the upswing? Read on to find out.
(Psst, this post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through one of my links, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.)
First, a quick reminder: One of the key things that helps you rank well in search engines is having relevant sites around the web link back to your site. This means one of the best things you can do to push your site toward ranking is to guest post and contribute and otherwise try to get links.
In February, link-building was my top priority and in March I continued the trend. Last month, I submitted 15 guest posts to 15 different places. This month, the number was about 16 posts to 16 places.
In April, I expect to slow down a lot on this for a couple reasons:
1) It’s taking up a little too much time and I need to dial it back to keep my work-life balance in check (I have a tendency to let my side projects eat up my free time, but I want to make sure I also make space for leisurely afternoons reading on the patio, two-hour Friday lunches, and plenty of walks and bike rides as the weather continues to warm; I’ve also made the decision to temporarily increase my work hours in Q2, so my free time will be a little more limited).
2) It’s time to start monetizing. Now, for some this may sound like it’s premature (and others might be asking why I didn’t spend more time on this from month one), but now that I’ve got links starting to roll in and readers growing month over month, I’m ready to monetize. I’ll dive deeper into all the details on this next month.
Evening Out the Publishing Schedule
In March, I published 11 new posts. Still a fast pace, but starting to slow things down. Ultimately, I imagine the post schedule will be once or twice weekly, but the fast pace early on should help me build helpful content quickly, appeal to search engines, and get more exposure, social media shares, etc. at a fast pace. (And if the goal is to see if this can be profitable within a year, that rapid early growth seems like it’ll be key.)
What I Published and Why
In March, much of my publishing schedule was determined by guest posts. I wanted to have relevant things to link to from guest posts, so when I was asked to do a write-up about a restaurant in Tbilisi, I published my review of said restaurant on the blog so that I could link to it. When I had the opportunity to guest post about Interlaken, Switzerland, I shared my favorite dessert place and the local farmers market.
Another big factor Google looks at when ranking your site is speed. So I took a little time mid-month to assess. How fast were things loading?
Vicious Foodie got a middle-range score, and the easiest way to speed things up is to make sure images are in appropriate small sizes. So I added a plugin that compresses images to make sure I didn’t have any oversized files floating around slowing down the site.
Let’s Talk Plugins
Speaking of plugins, here’s what I’m using at Vicious Foodie:
Classic Editor plugin: The new version of WordPress has a new editor and when I tried to use it, it had some unpleasant technical bugs it hadn’t yet worked out. This plugin allows me to continue editing my site with their old WordPress editor.
Custom Share plugin: This controls the floating sidebar with a Twitter and Facebook share button so that readers can share any page on the site easily.
jQuery Pin It Button for Images: This puts a floating Pinterest button over my images when you hover on them, making it easy for people to share images on Pinterest.
MailChimp for WordPress: This makes it easy for me to put mailing list sign-up forms on the website to build my list.
Remove Amazon Links from RSS Feed: Amazon’s affiliate program has a (strange) rule that affiliate links can’t appear in RSS feeds. This plugin takes any links I insert on my site and pulls them out before they get into my feed, to keep me in compliance.
Yoast SEO: This lets me set up SEO elements (like browser titles and descriptions for Google) for each post.
I also have a smattering of plugins that came with my design/theme.
Moz updated its domain authority rankings in March. This site (gigigriffis.com) jumped up about 10 points and Vicious Foodie dropped down a little and then popped right back up. Mid-month, it was at 12 and at the end of the month I’d pushed upward to 16.
The steady (though small) growth of this metric is likely due to my aggressive link-building strategy. A link check mid-month showed 80 incoming links from 20 different websites, most of them hyper-relevant to travel and/or food. By the end of the month it was 90 incoming links.
What I Spent on Blogging in March
March was another $0 month for Vicious Foodie. Generally, my blogging expenses are yearly and happen all at once, so it makes sense that I kicked off the year spending a few hundred on getting the site up and running and since then I’ve been putting in time instead of money.
March Blog Traffic
In March, my traffic held fairly steady (February was 322 users, so only slightly higher than the March figure of 311). The cool news, though, is that I’m definitely showing up in Google now and 40 of those site visits came from search engines. Not too shabby for such a new blog.
Tracking my Google Rankings
In early March, I sat down and created a spreadsheet to track my Google rankings. I listed out each blog post (or, actually, just the ones written for SEO, which is about 95%), the keywords I was targeting, how difficult they are to get according to KeySearch, how many clicks they get per month (also according to KeySearch), and where I’m currently ranking.
I only track my ranking within the first three pages of search results. Anything past page 3 I just marked as not yet ranking.
Creating the spreadsheet gave me a bird’s eye view of how my SEO efforts are going. Since my site doesn’t yet have a high domain authority, I don’t expect to skyrocket in the rankings right away. But seeing everything laid out in one place gave me a boost for two reasons:
1) I’m already ranking for a handful of things (as is evidenced by my traffic numbers above). Having a two-month-old site and already hitting the first page occasionally makes me feel like I’m on the right track.
2) I have a better sense of what key words I can rank for right now. How? By looking at the trends across the difficulty scores in my spreadsheet.
Looking at the spreadsheet, it became very clear that the key words I’ve been able to rank for so far are ranked in the 20s for difficulty. So if I want to start ranking right away, staying under 30 difficulty score (for now) is going to give me my best chance.
Based on this new info, I re-arranged some of my publishing schedule for the rest of the month to prioritize the low-difficulty posts over the more challenging ones (in between publishing things based on the guest posts I was writing).
March Blog Earnings
Zilch, baby! Which is to be expected at this stage.
I want these reports to be as detailed, interesting, and helpful as possible, so let me know if there’s something else you’d like to know or something I can do to improve them!
Sounds like you’re doing awesome things! I wish I could be more like you with new sites. We have TONS of site ideas (and almost as many domains) yet we struggle to get started. I’m happy to continue tweaking things on my existing sites, but getting something going from ground zero? Ugh.
Also, I think you were right to wait a little on monetizing. You need a decent flow of traffic to get affiliates to work, and that just takes time. Conversion rates for most of us are fairly low, even on high ranking, high volume posts, so at this point in your site’s life, you haven’t missed anything by not having those affiliate links in yet.
I’m so excited for you with this project!