January 1st was the one year anniversary of Keeping Up With The Bulls. To hold myself accountable, launching the blog was one of my 2019 resolutions and after working on it diligently over the holidays I was able to launch on New Year’s Day last year. I was motivated to launch by talking to someone who gave me the advice to get started and learn as I go instead of waiting for perfection. I give 100% to everything I do, so I knew I’d commit to doing this but I definitely didn’t know what I was getting into. Over the past year I’ve learned a ton about WordPress, marketing and more although I am still a ways away from where I’d like this blog to be.
What I Learned In My First Year of Blogging
I learned a ton in my first year of blogging but it can primarily be summed up in: things that went wrong but I figured it out, a few things that went right, that blogging isn’t worth the stress, and that there is a “FIRE” community.
The Things That Went Well
The Blog Went Live
I launched the blog! I’ve never had a blog so this was really out of my comfort zone. I also am not a developer, not a writer, not a CPA or CFP and not in marketing so this was really unchartered territory for me.
Setting Up Analytics Early
I’m in business operations and we love KPIs and metrics. I had Google Analytics installed before the site even went live. I’ve been able to track engagement from day one looking at both Google Analytics and the native WordPress Analytics. I also learned about Google Search Console very early on and was able to monitor Search analytics from the start. A couple months in I learned more about backlinks and Domain Authority and started tracking that as well. Because of this, I was able to start changing the order of my content once I noticed what was getting more clicks. I noticed posts about food got more engagement so I added a few food related posts into the schedule.
Helpful Tools Discovered Early
In addition to the analytics tools, I also discovered Canva to create pins and custom images as well as free images to use from Unsplash.
Personal Finance Blogging Community
Discovering the community of Personal Finance bloggers on both Twitter and Reddit really helped me connect with other bloggers. Many also created super helpful one year / two year blogging recap posts which helped me enormously when starting out.
I discovered Tread Lightly Retire Early which has a post on The Women Of the Financial Independence Movement. One of the first things I did was add my name to the list! I then started following many of these bloggers on Twitter and reading their blogs. There are also personal finance groups on Reddit, Pinterest and Facebook (although I have stayed off Facebook so far). So far I have only interacted with other personal finance bloggers online but I’ve learned about meetups in different cities and a conference called FinCon. In the future I hope to meet a few personal finance bloggers in person.
While I haven’t done any guest posts and don’t have any guest posts on my site yet I was able to get a few blogs to link to some of my content and feature links to other bloggers in a few of my posts where I was missing content and they had more in depth posts.
I’ve had a personal Twitter but haven’t used it in years. I had low expectations about Twitter to start but was surprised at how many personal finance bloggers I was able to connect with. I also got a decent amount of referral traffic and have slightly over 700 followers.
The Things that Went Wrong
Adding www. After Launch
This is all laughable now but at the time it was a bit of a struggle. I started without www. and while it doesn’t actually matter I wanted it. I changed my website to include it and then I had to create a bunch of redirects. There were also a few other administrative tasks I had to do. Luckily I didn’t have that many posts but I certainly wish I knew this before I pushed the site live! This change also delayed my site showing up in Google.
Hosting on Bluehost
My site went down multiple times due to a glitch in Bluehost where it kept auto renewing nightly an add on I had cancelled. My site ended up being down for almost 72 hours because of this. Yes, I am one of the bloggers that saw another blogger post about Bluehost and I figured it was easier to read their instructions than figure out something else. This year when I am up for renewal I am definitely switching from Bluehost.
Not Knowing SEO
I thought I knew SEO but it turns out besides a few things on hyperlinks I really didn’t know much. After installing the free version of Yoast I got scores on readability and SEO for all posts. The software rated the content red for both pretty much across the board. I went back and tweaked my old posts one by one to at least get to yellow. All the content that I updated is much, much better now but I am still not done!
Using Pinterest for Referrals
I attempted Pinterest after seeing a lot about it on Twitter but I never had the time to create or schedule that many pins. I saw a little traffic but not enough to justify continuing to focus on this instead of other areas of the blog.
Blogging Isn’t Worth The Stress
I am a very competitive person by nature and when I saw other [newer] blogs post their stats I of course wanted to beat their stats and get their faster than they did. But, reality set it. I really, really care about doing well at my job. My competitive nature shows there too and I wanted to be on a faster promotion path. I also have no interest in retiring early. It turns out when you’re firing on all cylinders to get ahead at your job and you’re in a blogging community where fellow bloggers are retired or counting down the days til their retirement it’s not an even playing field.
Even if I was a pro at blogging and marketing I would never have the same amount of time to devote to my blog while working 60-80 hours / week on stretch assignments while also working out daily and traveling once a month. Something would have to give. Someone also pointed out to me I could always buy clicks by running advertisements if I really wanted higher numbers.
I decided to continue my blog, but to not worry about comparing myself to others. This was supposed to be for fun and possible monetization. But, the amount I could make in a raise at work far exceeded the amount I would make blogging. It didn’t make financial sense to try to get to a certain number of page views by working less for my “9-5” job on the weekends.
I had no idea what FIRE was and there was a whole community out there centered around FIRE. FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early. While I’m not looking to retire early I’ve always been focused on financial independence. Even though I never officially called it financial independence I always wanted to have enough money to not worry. It’s been nice to find a community that enjoys discussing personal finance and their path to financial independence.
Why I’m Not Monetizing My Blog… Yet
I received a few opportunities to monetize my blog through my contact us page. Or, maybe it’s all spam – ha! I originally thought if I ever wanted to monetize I would have to do all of the work to identify partnerships or affiliate programs. It never occurred to me that I may actually have people reach out. But, after learning more about blogging numbers and goals I’ve decided to wait.
In terms of advertisements I learned with low traffic you should expect to earn very little from ads. There are other programs out there besides Google Ads but you need a certain level of traffic to apply. If you get below 4,000 page views a month you’re pretty much stuck with Google Ads. For me, I’d rather provide a better experience than make a minimal amount of money by including ads. Apparently, the one to aspire to is Medivine and you must have 25,000 sessions a month. But, there is another program where you need more like 4,000 page views a month.
Reading about affiliate programs, such as the Amazon Affiliate program, you also need enough traffic to justify it. If there isn’t enough use, you may even get kicked out!
I also really want to do things right. When I get enough traffic that it could make sense to start monetizing I will need a more official privacy and disclosure page, pay someone to create a real logo, hire someone to improve the design of my site and likely create a LLC. This will probably cost a few thousand dollars. Will I make that up in the first year of monetizing? Highly unlikely. But, I would want to move from a hobby blog to a business blog all at once.
Keeping Up With The Bulls Blog By The Numbers
In my first year of blogging, I wrote 40 posts for a total of 43,018 words. I didn’t write any guest posts. For social, I am mainly on Twitter and have 716 followers. I also tried at Pinterest and currently have 110 followers.
Overall, I got 14,130 page views in the first year from 6,478 visitors. My best month was October, reaching a high of 3,428 page views.
Keeping Up With The Bulls Most Popular Posts:
- Meal Prep Ideas to Save Time and Money
- Easy Trader Joe’s Dinner Ideas
- Weekly Meal Plan: What to Cook for Dinner
- Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas
- Smart Money Moves In Your 20s
As part of writing about personal finance I write about smart spending. In this section I have a few articles about saving on money on food. That must be much more interesting than making more money, investing and accelerating your career because every single food post I wrote is in the top 10 pages viewed in 2019. Once the first food related blog post took off I wrote a few more since it was proven to get traffic. I hadn’t quite figured out how to best promote the investing, making money and accelerating your career posts yet but that is definitely a goal for year two.
Keeping Up With The Bulls showed up 49.3K times in Google search and had 645 clicks from Google Search. Overall, I saw 13.5% of my traffic from Search Engines and hope to increase that this year.
Keeping Up With The Bulls Highest Google Search Referrals Posts:
- Easy Trader Joe’s Dinner Ideas
- Why You Should Attend A Women’s Conference
- 5 Little Known Health Insurance Benefits
- 10 Ways to Save Money on Christmas Decorations
- Why You Should Enroll in a 529 Plan for Your MBA
Since I have pages that already rank I am going to first focus on getting these pages to rank higher. I was on a good trajectory until Google made changes in November and I am still working on getting back to that trajectory. You can see from the graph the extra delay I had in showing up in search because I added the www. to my website after launch. Since I also saw immediate success with my Christmas decorations blog post I am going to write more holiday related content this coming year.
Blog Goals For Year Two
As I enter year two of blogging I have a few goals:
- Consistently hit 75 + views / day. 75 views a day consistently would put me at 2,250 views a month. This won’t get me to my ultimate monthly goal but it feels like a reasonable place to start.
- Hit 5,000 views at least one month. I would love to get to 10,000 and then 25,000 page views a month but given my work load it’s not realistic. I’d be very happy hitting 5,000 views at least one month this coming year.
- Reach 500 views / month from organic search. The highest I’ve ever had is 246 views back in November. With SEO improvements I’m confident I’ll be able to hit this.
- Write 20 more blog posts. Ideally I would like to post once every other week but sometimes I am stretched too thin. I’d rather enjoy life than stress myself out to try to post once a week or once every other week. With 46 posts already in various draft states I should be able to overachieve this.
- Continue to refresh old content. I’ve learned so much since I started blogging and there is an opportunity to optimize old content for SEO and strengthen the content in general. There are a few articles that need to be updated at least once a year since they contain tax bracket and tax limit information. It’s constantly a balance between updating old content, marketing and creating new content. If I do less here, I should be churning out more content.
- Continue to learn more about SEO and implement what I’ve learned. I’ve learned a lot about SEO since I started this blog but there is much more to learn! One of the first focuses I will have this year is improving backlinks.
- Reach 1,000 Twitter followers. Someone once tweeted that your tweets get seen by more people if you have 1,000 followers. I’m not sure the validity of that statement but we’ll see what happens once I hit that following.
That’s a wrap on the first year of Keeping Up With The Bulls! I officially survived the 6 month blogging cliff and made it all the way to 12 months. I look forward to kicking off year two! What did you learn in your first year of blogging? Any recommendations for improvements to focus on in year two?