It’s been a mixed month, as ever. Goals that weren’t reached were hindered by the fact that I’ve been ill twice this month, amongst other things.
All the important goals were completed, however. In fact, some goals were smashed. This is a testament to the work I’ve put in in previous months. It has given me a taster that a blog can tick along as a passive income stream without the need to nurture it every single day.
I’ve pulled in over $1,000 from this blog this year. If you don’t have a blog and would like to set up a source of side income I encourage you to head over to this post which will explain how you can start your own blog for as little as $3.95 a month. You can follow along with my traffic and income reports to try to replicate some of the things I’m doing. Plus, I’m always here to help and give you some guidance.
For those of you who are new to the site:
Why I’m publishing monthly income reports
Want to know why I’m publishing my income reports? Start at my income reports page.
I’m hopeful these reports will motivate, inspire and encourage readers like you to start being sensible with your cash. The aim of the blog is to help you find ways to get out of debt or earn extra income.
My online income reports detail my activities for the month. I share what I’m doing, what’s working, what’s not working and how much I’m earning. It’s a journey, I hope you will follow along. Please sign up to my mailing list to keep up to date on my progress.
If you are looking to generate your own income online and want to start your own blog I strongly suggest you check out this post which will show you how easy it is to get set up a blog of your own.
Here are this month’s details:
September 2016 Online Income & Traffic Report
I set the following goals last month. I have struck out the goals that I’ve achieved:
Continue with branding efforts
- Publish a minimum of 1.5 posts a week – I’m aiming for 6 posts next month
8,950 Sessions 7,560 Users 12,150 Page Views 2,500 Pinterest followers
- 4,000 Twitter followers
- 150 Facebook fans
Mailing list increased to 500 subscribers Optimise more pins to try to increase traffic and do some testing for brand design Fix up goal conversion metrics on GA to give more accurate reporting on actual conversion rates to mailing list Working toward monetization
It’s becoming a recurring theme that I’m short on time. I was unable to complete my goal to publish 6 posts this month. I epically failed on this front. If you count my Income and Traffic Report from last month I only published 2 posts. Here is the other one:
If you read this post last month you may have wondered why I created a Part 1 of that post. Surely there was a Part 2?
I had this post completed, I just needed to finish off the graphics and so delayed this report to publish it first. Still, it didn’t form part of my goals.
It’s because of the content in that post that I’ve been short of time at the start of the month. In short, I’ve been out job hunting and got a new job, with a pay rise. It’s a big win for me in generating extra income. So, whilst it’s taken me off my publishing goals, it’s been worth it.
I’ve also been sick; twice. I went down with some infection a few weeks ago. I returned to work when I wasn’t 100%, which was not wise. I’ve got a bucket load of stress happening at work at the moment. This contributed to a second bout of illness last week. The second bout really knocked me on my ass. I’m at least able to sit with my laptop and write now. I couldn’t even bare doing that last week.
I’ve had some epic wins with traffic and my mailing list growth. I also had more of a play trying to tweak things on Pinterest – some turned out good, some were bad. I’ll explain in the relevant sections below.
In terms of branding, the designer I got in touch with let me down a little. I’ve been talking to this guy for a couple of months. I connected with him through Behance. I submitted a brief on there. We then connected on Skype. I resubmitted my brief again. Then came a whole bunch of delays and excuses. I was ready to pull the brief and he got in touch last week. I’ll give him one last chance because I do really like his work.
In other news…
Completely unrelated to traffic and income reports, but still a win. At the start of the month, I was notified that I’d won a Father’s Day competition I entered at my local barber. I won a prize package worth $2,000. This was a real boost. I’ve been strapped for cash for the last few years and rarely treat myself to anything. Up until a few months ago, I didn’t have a single pair of shoes that didn’t have holes in them!
Most of the prizes are pretty useful. They include a free haircut at my favorite barbers. A number of car grooming vouchers, which I needed desperately. You wouldn’t believe what aq 4-year-old son and a border collie can do to a back seat!
I also get a 6-month membership to my local Les Mills gym with 3 personal training sessions. I’m not really a gym goer. I much prefer swimming, running or cycling. But, I’ve been looking to get my fitness back to better levels. I’ve done very little in terms of regaining my strength after recovering from a cervical disc replacement in my spine 4 years ago. I had started running a couple of years ago (and loved it) but suffered an injury.
The kicker is I can’t use the gym membership at the moment. I’ve got a partial tear on a ligament in my shoulder and my physio has said the gym is a big “no” at the moment. I’m currently working through this with a physio and a specialist. The gym has been awesome and delayed my membership start date.
I’m a bit of a demic with illness and injuries, huh?
Anyway, that bit of news was just some sugar coating on the start of my month. This blog is really about generating extra income and getting out of debt. I considered this a little win and was keen to share my joy with you all.
Let’s get into the details you’re probably more interested in:
Growth Hacking Social Media
I’ve generally had another positive month on Pinterest. If you’ve been following my reports you’ll know I took a Pinterest strategy from the outset. It was my main target for traffic and my efforts have consistently paid off. Month on month I’ve experienced growth and this month is no exception.
When I started the blog, one of my early strategies on Pinterest was to follow people in the hope they would follow me back. This worked. I hadn’t done this in many months however and wondered about doing it again.
I fell upon this tool that would automate this process.
I’m all for saving time where I can. Being a web developer myself I had also wondered about creating a tool to do this and so was very interested when I found it. It had a free trial and it seemed to have been built in a similar way as I would have approached it.
When you create an account you enter keywords and it seeks out Pinterest users who are interested in those topics. It follows them, or boards related to the topic, depending on what you set it up to do.
The first day was awesome, I tripled my follower rate! The second day I started losing followers. This was not good. I was going backwards. After a few days, I had fewer followers that I started with. I pulled the plug. My account continued to suffer for a few days and so did traffic to my site.
I was really worried! I thought I’d been blacklisted.
Fortunately, traffic and growth started to pick back up as I unfollowed the profiles the software had followed. As I went through them it seemed that many of them were crap – not how I would have designed it to work.
Unlike those “buy follower” services on Twitter and Facebook, these were real users who were interested in my topics. BUT many of them were new or inactive users with very few followers. These types of users are unlikely to add much value to my repinning efforts. You generally want active users with heaps of followers.
I offered to provide feedback to the company but the didn’t seem to care much. Not one to impart knowledge and feedback to a team who doesn’t know how to engage with potential customers I decided to keep my ideas and advice in my own hat.
Maybe one rainy day I’ll have a pop at creating something similar and see if I can make it work better.
I mentioned last month that I did some A/B testing on a Pin design for the most popular post on my blog. This had a massive impact on some traffic when I rehashed the design. You can see the redesign and read about that here. It has continued to drive traffic back to my site and the new design has been repinned almost 1,000 times with the original still at a mere 340 repins. These metrics are all the more impressive when you consider the original has been active on Pinterest for almost 8 months and the new design only 6 weeks.
What an improvement!
Given how little work went into making the design changes I had hoped to improve some more pins this month. I got around to just one before I fell ill. I followed the same template. This time, I put both pins into the same campaign schedule in BoardBooster. This would really put the new and original designs to the test. It would also be interesting to see the results because the original was actually quite a nice design. Here they are:
I followed the same template for the pin redesign on the right. Before publishing the right pin. I realised I hadn’t even published the pin on the left. This was perfect. It would mean I could test performance side by side, accurately.
I put both pins into the same campaign schedule in BoardBooster. It would also be interesting to see the results because the original was actually quite a nice design.
The original (left design) did better! It received 704 repins compared to 402 of the new text only ‘template’ design.
I was quietly hoping the new design would do better. If it came out tops it would have made designing pins so much easier. I could use a text-only template. I wouldn’t have to worry about sourcing images and messing with filters and cropping in Photoshop. In short, it would have reduced my workload.
But, it told me that really, a well-designed pin wins out.
I’m going to continue my testing in this area.
Pinterest users grew from 1927 to 2811.
My goal was 2500 so even despite suffering a week of backward motion in growth I’ve knocked this goal out of the park.
Boardbooster has largely been responsible for this growth! I did have a play with Tailwind this month but not to any extent that would have made a difference.
You can see the growth in impressions of pins to my site over the month. It’s up 32% on last month:
Better still the number of click-through’s to my site has improved by 56%. This is very likely because of the improved pins starting to circulate:
All in all my Pinterest strategy is on point still, but I could be doing a lot more to improve. I’ll be making a concerted effort to put some time in this month.
I’ve taken the foot off the pedal on Twitter a lot this month. I was finding in an earlier income report that the engagement rates of traffic from Twitter were much higher than any other source. I was going to try a little harder at building an audience on the platform but I’m finding Twitter a lot of effort for very little return.
I grew my audience from 3,425 to just 3,681, an increase of 256 followers.
It wasn’t bad given I have done very little to build followers this month. I want to do more in this area but I’m getting so much more ROI from my efforts on Pinterest at the moment.
There’s not much else to report here.
There’s been very little gains on Facebook, but then I haven’t even been trying.
Let’s move on…
This is the second most exciting area this month. I had hoped to hit the following metrics:
- 8,950 Sessions
- 7,560 Users
- 12,150 Page Views
Here’s where it landed:
- 8,950 Sessions
- 7,560 Users
- 12,150 Page Views
The month started off in a similar fashion to last month. It was doing well and increasing. In the second week, the repercussions of my Pinterest investigations seemed to hit my traffic. This sorted itself out after a few days, thankfully.
I had broken my monthly goal down into daily goals and decided that if traffic was not hitting my daily average I’d put more effort into promoting to try to make up the traffic. I didn’t think I was going to hit my monthly goal after the first week, despite numbers picking up in the second week.
Then all of a sudden I had a spike. I had over 1800 page views in a single day.
Digging into Google Analytics I found out that I had Flipboard to thank. One of my posts was trending on the Blogging topic.
It was a short-lived spike but my mailing list was very thankful for the surge, as were my monthly traffic goals.
I’ve managed to improve engagement rates on my site too. Last month I spent some time linking old posts to new posts and this has had a positive effect. My average session times are now 5 minutes 25 seconds, this is up from 4 minutes 29 seconds last month. That’s a big increase!
My bounce rates is also down but that’s slightly skewed in comparison to last month. I’ll probably see this figure increase this month as I’m planning on tweaking the time for which I consider a user to be “a bounce”.
As for sources of traffic, Pinterest is by a large my biggest source. With direct, Flipboard and Google organic following closely. I’ve seen an increase in SEO traffic this month. I definitely want to work on that a little this month. Really, I need some tools to be tracking my ranking on keywords – just can’t afford it right now.
Mailing List Growth
This has been the most awesome area for progress this month. Last month A/B testing of opt-in boxes increased my mailing list by 137 from 162. That was almost double and I was over the moon!
My mailing list had 299 subscribers at the end of this month.
This month I increased subscribers by 748 to 1047!
As my A/B testing started to cross a certain threshold on traffic, giving certainty of results, I started to close down the lower scoring tests. Higher performing opt-in boxes increased my subscribers. My best day had 49 subscribers.
I’d be putting it mildly to say I was over the moon.
I’ve also switched over from MailChimp to ConvertKit. This wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be and it’s impacted my sending emails out a little. IN the most part it’s because I’ve not setup my mailing template correctly in ConvertKit – this is because I’m working on branding and hopefully having some design work done. Once that’s done I can code the template. Because I’ve been short on time I don’t want to double up on work.
Also, there’s a few things in ConvertKit that I can’t do in Mailchimp. I guess every provider has their pros and cons. In Campaign Monitor (email marketing software I LOVE) you can A/B test your campaigns but can’t do automation. Mailchimp has automation but you have to set up multiple lists and then you get charged for each subscriber. One subscriber on two lists counts as two subscribers. This was why I switched to ConvertKit. They are just better for segmenting subscribers, in my opinion. Time will tell. I have two months free to try them out but I’m happy so far.
At my current growth rates however by the time I complete the free trial I’ll be paying $49 a month. That’s more than I can afford. Time to get to bringing in more money from this site.
This is site was primarily set up to document earning extra income. This month we had a friend lodge with us for 3 weeks which gave us some much needed additional income, or relief on rent, depending on how you look at it.
Taking on a lodger or renting out a room for short-term stays is a great way of earning extra money. However, I didn’t really want to document those types of income. If I had my figures would be looking very good this month, but I’m going to just document income I earn through online means.
Google Adsense income has increased somewhat this month, largely because of the improvement of traffic. Other than that there has been no gains. Here’s the income breakdown this month:
- Google Adsense – $26.80
Total income is $26.80.
Income hasn’t been a priority for me. I’ve been focussed on traffic and mailing list growth. I’m starting to get to a point where I’m happy with the level of growth and need to turn my attention to income.
I’ve already spent some time thinking about monetization. I have a bunch of ideas. The ideas coming to the fore have been related to the pain points I’ve been experiencing in the last few months, and most particularly this month. With my extensive web and software development background, I can’t help but think that there are easier and more cost-effective ways of doing certain tasks. As bloggers, it’s a time intensive task to network and promotes your articles and I can think of a bunch of ways to save time doing that. There are some tools out there that help but some of them are expensive, particularly for bloggers on a budget.
Measuring and tracking performance is an area I can see problems. I have an idea for a very simple piece of software to solve this problem. I did some early market validation with a few friends of mine who run Google Analytics consultancies and the pain I’ve experienced is common, apparently. I need to validate if it’s really widespread and a big enough problem that someone would pay to solve.
Still, this may not be a passive income stream, but it may be part of the path to it and I’d be fool not to leverage my biggest strength to get there.
If you’re interested in hearing about any tools I create, or even interested in beta testing anything I develop sign up in the form below.
Expenses are still outperforming my income, largely because I took Melyssa Griffin’s Blog to Biz Hive course a few month’s back and opted to take the paying plan due to cash flow constraints. That course has been worth it’s price tag in my opinion. I’ve got another 2 more payments to make. Also, next month I won’t have MailChimp to pay for.
Total expenses are $111.20.
In general, I’m really happy with the progress. I’m frustrated that yet another month has gone by where I’ve been constrained with time. I’ve had quite a bit of stress to deal with in the last few months and work has been pretty intense recently too. That’s got to my immune system and caused me to have some downtime.
It’s a stark reminder to myself of why I want to set up passive income streams.
I’m overjoyed by the increase in traffic and my mailing list growth. It’s time to start leveraging that. I need to prioritise my ideas on what I can do quickly to generate some money. I start a new job in a couple of weeks which I’m hoping won’t affect my time on my blog too much, but I will have a lot of information to absorb quickly in order to prove myself in the role.
Overall profit/loss on the site this month is -$84.40.
Next Month’s Goals
Next month I really want to hit my content schedule. I’ve set myself some pretty hefty traffic targets too. I’m taking Facebook off the list because I just don’t have the time to give a Facebook page the focus and it’s not a channel I think will give me the returns I need right now.
- 6 new posts published
- 20,698 Sessions
- 18,107 Users
- 27,747 Page Views
- 4,000 Twitter Followers
- 4,000 Pinterest Followers
- Mailing list increased to 2,350 subscribers
- Product or monetization plan completed
How do you think I’m doing guys? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.