Follow my journey from a simple idea and yet another questionable late-night domain name purchase, to growing my first blog to $1,000 a month in revenue
When I started out on my content site journey, I had a bunch of questions keeping me awake at night. Basic, over-excited 2am thoughts like:
- Can I really earn $1k a month from a blog site?
- How long will it take?
- What other things might happen as a result of this? (spoiler: I also started 6 other content sites, as if I don’t have enough on my plate already…)
I’m using this post mainly as a journal to track monthly changes and growth for my first content site. This will hopefully stop me throwing my hands up in despair and quitting like I did with my two previous blogs 🤦♀️
1 June 2021 – blog launched! (insert party here)
I sat down and did some serious thinking about time and client work management, and whether it was even worth starting to build this content site to try out my ideas.
I figured it wasn’t going to cost me anything except a ton time and a couple of bucks for hosting each month, so I started working through the WordPress setup process.
Main focus: basic setup stuff (yawn)
- Sorted through my Google drive and looked for old, abandoned blog drafts that were relevant to repurpose for this site
- Bought the Magazine Pro Theme by Studiopress to make things look a bit nicer than a free generic WordPress template. It’s not great, but it will do until I stumble on something better
- Started the gruelling foundational content creation process and formatting for SEO
- Total blogs on the site: 6
- Total organic traffic: 0
- Total page views: 0
- Total incoming revenue: 😂
I spent this month creating some cornerstone content for SEO. This took ages, and I have a full load of client work right now. So this month was a total dumpster fire in terms of free time.
I forgot how long writing a good blog post took. UGH.
Attempted to create pins with Canva for each finished article and then upload them to the blog so I don’t forget later on.
I’ve decided I already loathe Pinterest. From what I’m reading, the new algorithms have changed Pinterest a lot, and it’s nowhere near as amazing as it used to be to push traffic. So this is a pretty half-hearted effort on my part.
Main focus this month:
- Research and apply for affiliate programmes that accept newbies
- Create 20 editable Pinterest templates with Canva to make things faster to promote new posts
- Spend way too much time on Ahrefs looking for relevant ideas to bring in traffic
- Write as much content as possible
- Total blogs on the site: 16
- Total organic traffic: 6
- Total page views: 109
- Total revenue: $1.08 commission (woohoo!) from somebody clicking my Amazon link, and then buying a tie rack and some ant killer. Weird.
Everything I’m seeing about Pinterest at the moment says it’s not worth putting the time and effort into this platform to drive traffic anymore. So I can pretty much set fire to the two courses I bought on Pinterest strategy. Insert major eye roll here.
Pinterests algorithms are changing like crazy, and it’s not going to help anyone make bank like it did in 2018.
The forum I’m in is full of people panicking because their Pinterest traffic and income has plummeted. It reminds me of Amazon’s drastic changes to their affiliate program in 2017 and 2020, which essentially slashed people’s income in half overnight.
This is a good lesson in not “building a house on rented land” – i.e. not relying on a 3rd party platform to help you make money long-term.
Main focus this month = content content content content
Blogs generally take around 12 months to start firing for SEO on a new site, give or take. My aim is to write 50 posts by the 6 month mark (November), and 100 posts by 12 months.
This seems like a lot, but it’s what’s typically recommended for growing a blog to $1,000 a month. It works out to around 2 blogs per week. Ideally I should be publishing 15 posts a month, but I can’t do this alone.
When I can’t fit blogging around my client work, I’ll be looking to hire some writers to create solid blog frameworks that I can then personalize, add images to, and publish.
This will take a lot of the groundwork of research and drafting off my plate. I’ll be trying to create as many of my own posts as possible, but my workload is pretty crazy for the next couple of months.
I reached my first goal of publishing 25 substantial posts in under 2 months (insert jubilant fist-pump here), so now I can relax a bit as I head towards my next content goal of 50 posts by the end of November.
At the moment, I’m focusing on sharing new posts to LinkedIn and Twitter where I have a good following of copywriters who are most likely to be interested in what I’m publishing.
I got approved for AdSense, but the ads are making the site look nauseating. I applied for Ezoic in the hopes they might have a better ad structure, so those ads you can see all over the place making things ugly is a result of that.
At least these ads seem relevant to all 10 of my organic site visitors.
Overall I’m still not sure about the ad thing vs. concentrating on providing a nice user experience for people at this early stage. So I’m in two minds about turning the ads off altogether.
I realized my site structure was a total mess, with way too many tags and random categories that didn’t make sense. The last proper blog I built was in the mid 90s when keyword stuffing and tag clouds were all the rage (yes, I am that old).
As I’m still very early on in the life of my blog, I just deleted everything that was wrong and restructured it, so there won’t be too many 404 errors that Google can spank me for. This will make life easier as I publish more content. I also installed the Redirection plugin to take care of future redirects.
End of month stats:
- Total blogs on the site: 30
- Total organic traffic: 10 🙄
- Total incoming revenue: $0
I had a full client workload this month – plus a couple of larger projects that started months back are still dragging on due to a bunch of eye-rolling client-side delays. These are now smashing into my new and upcoming projects which means working weekends for a bit. Gotta love this freelance stuff!
Anyhoo, work takes priority over all this fun niche stuff – so no blogging until everything that pays me is wrapped up!
Still grinding on with client projects. Luckily Medellin is a great place to get work done, because there aren’t many distractions for me except food. Mmm….food….
Aiming to have these big client projects wrapped up by the end of the month so I can have a fresh and more balanced start to work in October.
FINALLY. I wrapped up most of my work at the start of the month, and have managed to create enough time to get the ball rolling on the blog again. While I was gone, it started doing a bit of stuff by itself in the traffic department, which was nice to come back to.
Organic traffic has 10xed itself since July, and I actually have revenue this month! Booyah!
Also my email subscribers jumped from 5 to 22. I suppose I should actually send an email at some point.
My goal was to have 50 posts live by the end of November. Obviously I’m now two months behind, but I’m confident I can get up to speed.
End of month stats:
- Total blogs on the site: 40
- Total organic traffic: 200
- Total incoming revenue: $0
Client work and general end of year chaos meant I slacked off with the blog stuff again for a couple of months. Traffic has been slowly climbing since I’ve been away, and I have a couple of posts to finalize that I started on a while back.
The nice thing about growing a niche site is that, unlike client work, you can take a break whenever you feel like it, and it will still be there when you’re ready to start again. No pressure. No deadlines (except the stupid self-imposed ones).
I’m testing a few freelance writers to help me out with creating basic content to get my traffic up. This is an interesting (and slightly depressing) trial-by-fire exercise.
It’s super interesting to see what different humans write when they’re given the same content brief, and the content quality differences are, shall we say, vast.
I switched hosts from Siteground to Bigscoots, as my plan with SG was almost up. There was an immediate climb in traffic after switching, although I’m unsure if that was due to different hosting, or if I’m just reaching a point in the blog’s age where Google has given me the thumbs up for having good content.
By the end of March I reached 300 visits a day and decided to put Ezoic ads back on there. Now the site looks like absolute trash again, but it’s finally earning its keep.
If I can double the traffic, I can apply to Monumetric and test out their ad network to see if it’s cleaner and faster. Or I might just wait until I can 5X the traffic (ugh, how is that even possible at this point?) and apply for Mediavine.
I got my first payout from Amazon – a whopping $13.56. These payouts are Net 60 or something ridiculous, so this payout was from what I earned in December. Really excited to see what the next months’ payouts will look like – as affiliate purchases started taking off in February.
End of month stats:
- Total blogs on the site: 95
- Total organic traffic: 3,319
- Total incoming revenue: $13.56 (Amazon) and $26.24 (Ezoic)
Things have started to really pick up steam on this site. I passed 10,000 pageviews, which is double the views from last month. Once I can 5x this traffic, I’ll apply to Mediavine and increase the value of my ad earnings.
I’m estimating I need another 100 articles and maybe 8-12 months to reach this point, but as I’ve never done this before I can only be guided by what other people’s estimates are about traffic vs. number of articles vs. website age.
Anyway, pretty excited by this month’s stats!
End of month stats:
- Total blogs on the site: 130
- Total organic traffic: 7,865
- Total incoming revenue: $22.64 (Amazon) and $67.10 (Ezoic)
Reached this milestone in the first week of May! I know it’s still small change and won’t even cover groceries for the week, but I continue to be amazed that a content site can actually produce money.
Bear in mind that when you set up Ezoic ads on your website, it takes around 12 weeks for the AI component of this platform to figure out which ad placeholders work best for your particular site. I won’t reach full ad potential until the end of June, and hopefully I’ll have a bit more traffic by then too.
This month saw a huge leap in earnings. Between ads and affiliate payments, it totaled $666 at the end of May – which about sums up how beastly it is trying to please the algorithms and monetize a new website from scratch 😖
End of month stats for May:
- Total blogs on the site: 160
- Total organic traffic: 12,200
- Total incoming revenue: $666
June 2022 – the first anniversary!
Yep, it’s been one whole year of building, writing, editing, wrangling writers, optimizing posts, researching keywords, and obsessively checking graphs to see if shit is working.
Did I think Niche Site #1 would get this far? No. Did I think it would be earning any kind of decent money by now? Also no.
To be honest, it’s been frustrating as hell, and a ton of work and writing before those first few cents started to roll in. If you’re looking for an “easy” way to earn “passive” income, monetizing a blog is not it.
However, most of the work involved in getting a site off the ground financially comes from your first 12 months of up-front building and slaving away consistently. Once you start to get in the swing of things, you’ll notice the earnings start to do interesting things.
Stay tuned for June progress!
Rachael is a full-time digital nomad and freelance copywriter for B2B and SaaS companies. She’s worked with brands like Unbounce, Biteable, Datacom, Viddyoze, and Owler.