How I Made $948 in Passive Income in January 2020

January income report 2020

My January 2020 income report! A full recap of how I reached my highest passive income month yet. 

2020 started off with a bang. I was just short of hitting my first milestone goal of making $1000 in ONLY passive income in January, I reached the highest amount of users ever on my site, and I released my very first book during the first week of February. 

This report is coming out a bit later than usual because I took a week off from work after my book came out. I’m trying to celebrate my wins better this year and take breaks when needed to avoid burning out. #selfcare 

In case you’re new here, these monthly reports are where I give you an honest look into how I’m building my blog into a business and finally monetizing it after over six years of blogging.

I write these income reports for my own accountability, but also to show others how to go about monetizing their blogs – whether they’re a newbie or they’ve been in the blogging game for years.

These posts are also a good way to keep track of what I’m trying in terms of monetization and what is and isn’t working the best for my website.

My goal is to be as transparent as possible with these posts to give you a good idea of how much work goes into running a financially sustainable blog, and the different income streams that are out there for bloggers.

My main goal at the moment is building my passive income so I’ll have more time to expand my brand and make this blog better in the process.

So, let’s dive into January.

If you want to see my past income reports where I explain the different revenue streams I’m building in more detail, you can find those here: August, September, October, November, December

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep writing these income reports and providing free travel advice and tips. 

January income report 2020

January in Review

January was all about completing one specific goal – writing my first book.

I realized in late 2019 that I not only wanted another passive income stream besides ads and affiliates, but also to create my own product that would give me direct income every month.

Ads and affiliate marketing are both solid passive income options, but you usually have to wait 2-3 months before you’re paid out and sales are finalized.

In comparison, with my own product, the money essentially goes directly into my bank account as soon as someone purchases a copy of my book. 

Focusing on one specific goal for the month (and successfully following through with it) also got me brainstorming more ways that I could pair down what I’m working on and instead double down on what’s working.

Basically, how I could work smarter not harder. 

I have this issue with shiny object syndrome sometimes, where I’ll get inspired by yet another way to make money through blogging and split more of my time and energy on another tactic instead of going full in with just one or two. 

I talked about this a little already in my last income report, but I really thought about it in January and how I could make even more passive income by doing less.

Another highlight from this month was reaching the highest number of users, sessions, and pageviews EVER on my website.

The best part about this is that I didn’t publish any new content in January, besides my December income report, because I was writing my book. Win win!

The big jump in traffic was due to some of those mega cornerstone post I wrote a few months ago finally reaching the first page of Google. More on that below, but I was super excited about my SEO progress in January.  

All up, I saw an increase of $273 in passive income this month, thanks in part to my presale deal for my book and an uptick in my affiliate sales. 

Here’s a breakdown of my stats from January. 


In January 2020, I earned a total of $948.30 from my travel blog.

Affiliate Income


Total = $281.72

Display Ads

Mediavine = $509.08


6 sales in January = $157.50 


  • Adobe Lightroom (for photo editing): $9.99
  • Canva Pro (for designing pins): $12.95
  • Keysearch (for keyword research): $34
  • Ahrefs (for more in-depth keyword research and SEO optimization work): $99
  • ConvertKit (for email campaigns): $49
  • E-Book CC processing fees = $6.36
  • E-Book custom maps design work  = $220
  • Shutterstock = $169



January Blog Traffic and Stats

*with comparisons to December stats

  • Monthly sessions: 29,151 (+7,255)
  • Monthly pageviews: 37,144  (+9,618)
  • Monthly users: 26,071 (+6,626)
  • Social media followers: 51,428 (-162)
  • Email subscribers: 1,972 (-148
  • Blog posts published/updated: 1 blog post + 1 book 

January Traffic Comparison to Other Months

  • 34.94% increase in traffic compared to December 2019
  • 58.01% increase in traffic compared to November 2019
  • 45.13% increase in traffic compared to October 2019


January income report 2020

Review of My January Goals

Finish my book – I started writing my California Road Trip Guide in December and I finished it the first week of February.

Writing my book was basically my life in January. I didn’t go out on the weekends, I didn’t drink alcohol, I worked late most nights, I embraced hermit life fully to get my book done.

And the result was creating a 50,000 word book that I’m incredibly proud of. It just goes to show that if you really set your mind to something, you can accomplish it in a shorter timeframe than you might think. 

It was also an interesting challenge to tackle a bigger project than my usual one-off blog posts. I really had to break down every step of the process of writing a book and stick to a strict schedule to get everything done in a couple of months.

BUT I did it. 🙂 

Maintain or exceed my passive income from December – I knew I wouldn’t have time to build up more of my passive income streams this month due to focusing fully on writing my book.

However, I was hoping I could at least keep my income around the same amount from December.

Instead, I increased my passive income by almost $300 in January. This was in part due to a last minute presale idea for my book, which brought in an additional $157, and one of my affiliate posts going up in the rankings and bringing in sales. 

Reach 30K pageviews – This month, I finally reached my goal of 30K pageviews! In fact, I surpassed that goal by almost 7,000 extra pageviews.

I would like to think that 2020 is all about blowing my goals out of the water. We’ll have to see, but let’s just say I was very happy with my increase in traffic this month. 

January income report 2020

What Worked

SEO / Mega Cornerstone Posts 
When I first started working on updating and creating my mega cornerstone posts in the fall, I wasn’t sure if it was a strategy that would actually work.
With these posts, I wanted to test if I could rank for super competitive but very high traffic keywords in the California niche. It took a solid 3-4 months, but the two mega posts that were the most difficult to rank for reached the first page of Google in January. 
My strategy was focused on writing SEO-optimized blog posts that were twice as detailed compared to any other result on the first page of Google and I built as many quality backlinks as possible over the course of a few months – AND it actually worked! 
To see my posts reaching the first page of Google and competing with the likes of CN Traveler and TripAdvisor, makes all the work I did finally seem worth it.

My Book Presale 

I decided to run a short presale deal the last week of January before my book was released and I managed to get six sales within a few days, coming out to a total of $157.50. 

Most of these were from friends and family (side note: I have great friends and family), but my focus in February is to get my sales funnel running properly for my book to reach a wider audience.

The first funnel I’m going to try is offering a free opt-in from my main California posts. When someone downloads the free opt-in, they’ll be added to my email list and redirected to a page with an up-sell for my book.

Even if they don’t buy the book right then, they’ll be added to a nurture email sequence full of California tips and recommendations that will eventually up-sell to my book again.   

It’s going to take a decent amount of work to get the funnel up and running, but my goal is to have it running smoothly before the end of February.

This will include trying out different copy, messaging, and even the opt-in itself until I get it right with my target customer. 

My initial goal for this funnel will be to make around $1K per month by the end of March or April from just my book. I want to increase this to around $2K-$3K by the end of the year once I have more content driving the funnel. 

Affiliate Posts 

January was a good month for affiliate income as well. 

One of my more recent affiliate posts moved up a lot in the Google rankings in January. It’s still not on the first page of Google, but it did bring in a handful of high ticket sales that made a difference in my income for the month.

I’m also expecting this post to reach the first page of Google before the end of the February, so it should continue giving me a chunk of increased income coming in every month. 

I also slightly increased my Viator and Amazon affiliate income this month too, and I have plans to add in more Amazon affiliate links to my top performing posts in February. 

In terms of improving my affiliate income, my focus for the rest of the month and quarter will on promoting a few quality affiliate products that bring in anywhere from $500-$1000 each per month.

I’m focusing on high ticket items that I use myself and that I can write a detailed and helpful review about. These will be lengthy blog posts that will hopefully be on the first page of Google within a few months.

I also plan to do a YouTube video reviewing each item for another level of traction.

I ran the numbers and I’m estimating by just focusing on five quality affiliate posts that I’ll be able to start bringing in $4K per month from just affiliate marketing. 


I had about a 70% increase in Pinterest traffic in January compared to December, reaching around 7,800 sessions from Pinterest alone.

I think part of this was due to the time of year – January is usually a good time for Pinterest traffic and planning trips – but I also think part of the uptick was due to the Pinterest SEO work I did back in the fall. 

Although I still don’t plan on investing a ton of energy into Pinterest until I get my other passive income streams going, it was great to see the initial strategy I started implementing in the fall pay off in terms of traffic.

Once I have more time, I want to dive back into Pinterest to see if I can capitalize better on this strategy and continue increasing my traffic. 

What Didn’t Work

Improving Mediavine Income

I knew that my Mediavine income wasn’t going to be anywhere near as impressive as it was during the holidays.
Still, I wasn’t expecting quite as much of drop in my RPM (revenue per 1,000 impressions) as what I saw in January. 

My RPM went from an average of $26.10 in December to $17.46 in January.

Luckily, because of my large traffic surge in January, I still managed to almost break even with what I made in ad revenue in December. 

Even still, I contacted Mediavine about how I can work on improving my RPM moving forward. I’ll be working with them over the next month to see what I can improve on my site to make it more ad friendly and hopefully get above $20 RPM again. 

January income report 2020

What’s Next for February

February 2020 Blog Goals

  • Set up my E-Book sales funnel fully 
  • Backlink outreach + guest posts on high DA sites
  • Reach 45K pageviews
  • Reach $600 in Mediavine income 
  • Reach at least $1000 in total passive income


Now that I have my first product, the rest of February is going to be focused on marketing it and driving sales.

I want to collect testimonials to put on my sales page, optimize the free opt-ins and the up-sell page, create a nurture email sequence, and, in general, have a smooth funnel running. 

The second part of my strategy this month is to build as many quality backlinks as possible and increase the amount of guest posts I’m writing for other authoritative sites.

I’m building backlinks to a select few posts that will specifically help with affiliate sales, E-book sales, and an overall increase in traffic.

Here’s to making February the first month where I exceed my first milestone goal of $1000 per month in passive income! 

x Mimi

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Mimi McFadden
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