My September income report for The Atlas Heart! This is how I improved on my strategy from August and continued to increase my revenue for my travel blog.
Hey guys! Welcome to my new monthly income report series, where I go through how I’m building my blog into a business and finally monetizing it after over six years of blogging.
I wanted to start writing these reports to not only keep myself accountable in this blogging journey, but to also be completely transparent.
I want these reports to show how much goes into monetizing a blog and the different strategies I’m trying out, whether you’re simply curious or trying to grow your own blog into a business right now too.
If you want to see my first income report where I explain the different revenue streams I’m building in more detail, you can find that here.
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.
So, let’s dive right into September.
This month was all about making intentional progress towards my long term goals, and staying focused even though my progress didn’t always look like a straight line up.
Two major things happened this month.
- There was a big Google algorithm update that hit a few weeks into September, which caused my site to take a slight dip in traffic and was part of why I didn’t reach my traffic goals for the month.
- I changed my strategy mid-way through the month to something that I think will be more sustainable and allow me to reach my goals more efficiently.
This month I got a lot clearer on my immediate strategy to increase my revenue. I realized in the process of coming up with a better strategy that the key is going to be narrowing down my focus on what I’m working on in order to grow.
Part of this epiphany had to do with realizing that I needed to focus more on niche content and really high quality posts over quantity.
I already knew this to an extent, but I don’t think I realized just how much I needed to put into my new and old content in order to see the growth I want.
This month, I switched from trying to get out a post almost every day of the week to focusing on huge mega guides that are very well researched and thorough, sometimes taking me a week to write.
I’m also trying to focus more on my location specific niche content and build my authority up as the go-to blog for California travel tips and guides.
And I think this new strategy is going to work wonderfully. I just have to be patient as I implement it properly over the next month.
Even though my stats were down across the board in September, I more than doubled my blog income and saw my rankings go up for a few very competitive keywords for those mega posts I’ve been working on.
Those keywords will basically double my traffic once I’m ranking on the first page of Google for them.
Not to mention, a lot of the SEO optimized blogs I wrote up this summer should be hitting the first page of Google soon if all goes well.
Being that I’ve already built backlinks to these posts and the content is competitive with what’s currently ranking on the first page of Google, this should give me a nice traffic bump in late October or early November once those posts are ranking on the first page of Google.
Here’s a look at my stats from September.
In September 2019, I earned a total of $309.56.
Total = $8.45
Mediavine = $301.11
- Part-Time Writer =$300
- 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
- Miscellaneous = $49.08
TOTAL EXPENSES = $554.02
TOTAL NET INCOME = -$244.46
September Blog Traffic and Stats
*with comparisons to August stats
- Monthly sessions: 19,567 (-893)
- Monthly pageviews: 23,754 (-922)
- Monthly users: 17,051 (-1,025)
- Social media followers: 52,122 (-187)
- Email subscribers: 2,182 (+42)
- Blog posts published/updated: 8 (-4)
September Traffic Comparison to Other Months
- 5.42% decrease in traffic compared to August 2019
- 2.91% decrease in traffic compared to July 2019
- 17.26% increase in traffic compared to June 2019
Review of September Goals
Publish/update 20 optimized blog posts
As I mentioned above, I changed up my strategy mid-way through the month so I wouldn’t be focusing as much on quantity. Instead, I started researching which high value content I wanted to focus on in the form of mega posts.
I put a pause on the work with my part-time writer as well this month. Partly because of the new strategy change, but also because I want to wait to hire until I can pay someone more sustainably from my business income and not from my personal income.
With that said, I still got out 8 blogs in September.
New Site Design
It is almost laughable now whenever another issue comes up with my new site design, which has been going on for 10 MONTHS now. If I ever update my site design again, I’ll at least know exactly what I’m getting myself into.
Jokes aside, I should definitely have my new site live by tomorrow, October 3rd (fingers crossed that no more bugs come up before 10:30 am tomorrow when my new site design is set to premiere).
Reach 25K sessions and 30K pageviews
Due to the Google update and still waiting on a few of my newer blogs to hit the first page of Google (so close!), my stats were actually a bit down this month.
However, SEO is a long game and the main thing I look at is making sure that my traffic has increased from the three month view of my stats, which it has. Yay!
Ha! Every time I say I’m going to invest time in Instagram it backfires on me and I end up spending even less time on the platform. I’m going to be real with you guys and say that, at least right now, Instagram doesn’t bring me a whole lot of joy.
I don’t like having anxiety every time I hit publish, wondering if I’m going to get enough engagement, because my engagement rate is directly correlated with how many sponsored opportunities I receive from brands.
If I’m being honest, I’ve also been feeling frustrated with the algorithm lately and burnt out on the platform in general these days.
I have one sponsored campaign I’m currently working on for October with an airline I love, but after that I think I might take a break from the platform and focus all of my energy on Pinterest and Google.
Learn more about affiliate marketing
Win! In September, I took time to dive more into affiliate marketing.
I would still like to invest in a proper course at some point, but for now I’ve been reading articles like crazy and scouring Facebook groups for tips on how to improve my affiliate marketing right now.
I already have a plan for how I’m going to improve this revenue stream. It’s based on focusing on keywords that have a search intent to buy and writing up detailed niche product guides.
I also joined a few other product affiliate networks besides Amazon so I can recommend a greater variety of products that I love that will actually give me a commission.
One of these affiliate networks is called Skimlinks, which actually changes any potential links on your site to affiliate links, even if you forgot to place your affiliate link.
This is pretty amazing for me since I have around 400 blogs on my site that were never optimized for affiliate links.
I’m excited to see how I can grow this side of my revenue since it’s more immediate income than ad networks, which have a three month delay for payments.
Start engaging on Pinterest to help boost traffic
I did start participating in Pinterest group threads on Facebook again, where you pin everyone else’s pins and they pin yours.
The idea is that if they pin your content to their followers then it hopefully creates a more viral pinning spree of your pin. And it looks like a more authoritative pin in Pinterest’s eyes because it has more shares.
However, I’ve realized these groups haven’t actually brought me a ton of extra traffic growth from Pinterest. So, instead of relying on mutual Pinterest sharing, I’m going to really dive into Pinterest-specific SEO this month.
I’ve already started looking at the updated content from the Pinfinite Growth course I bought a few years ago, and I think that I might actually be able to drive some serious traffic if I put some effort into it.
Running Mediavine ads was a big part of my initial monetization strategy and I’m happy to say that it has been working well so far.
I signed up for Mediavine mid-way through August, so September was my first full month of running Mediavine ads on my site I knew that it would take some time for the ads and my RPM (revenue per thousand impressions) to be optimized properly.
From what I’ve heard, it takes a few months for the Mediavine algorithm to figure out what type of ads work best with your audience and to start reaching optimal RPM levels.
And I’m happy to say that my RPM has continued to increase from an average of $12 in August to $15 in September, and I ended up tripling my revenue from August.
Even though my site traffic was down this month, I’m not worried because I know that SEO is a long game and never a straight line up.
It’s kind of like the stock market. There are so many people that get anxiety over drops in the day, week, or month, but as long as the macro view is trending upwards, I know that my strategy is working effectively.
And looking at my three month history of traffic and beyond, I know that my SEO tactics are working great so far.
This month was about educating myself on affiliate marketing and figuring out the right strategy before going full in on it as a revenue stream.
I’m looking forward to implementing my new affiliate strategy and creating more niche product guides that will rank quicker on Google and hopefully see a decent return from.
What Didn’t Work
As I mentioned above, my heart just hasn’t been in Instagram lately and I think I need to take a break and figure out how to enjoy posting again.
I also don’t think it’s a platform that can get me the traffic I’m looking for right now, compared to Google, Pinterest, or even Facebook.
So, I’m putting Instagram on the back burner. Hopefully, I can return to a more regular posting schedule once I have more income coming in from my other streams and I take a step back from sponsored posts.
Getting out a lot of SEO optimized content in one go isn’t a bad strategy per se, but I also realized it wasn’t the targeted strategy I was looking for. Nor, is it as efficient as niching down and focusing on really high value guides.
I’ll probably go back to more of a content push when as I continue to scale up and hire back on another writer in the future, but for now I don’t think it’s the best strategy for my current goals.
What’s Next for October
October 2019 Blog Goals
- New site design live and running smoothly – should be released tomorrow!!
- Update all cornerstone mega guides – I have four main ones that I’m trying to focus on at the moment and they take me about a week to write.
- Make $100 from affiliate marketing – I have a couple of niche product guides I want to get out this month and one that I wrote up last month that should hopefully be ranking on the first page of Google before the end of the month.
- Make $500 from Mediavine – In order for this to happen, I need to be making at least $17 per day from ads. Right now I’m averaging at around $10/day.
- Reach 25K sessions and 30K pageviews – I can do it!!
- Implement new Pinterest strategy and increase traffic by 10% from Pinterest – I’m actually quite excited about implementing this strategy, because there are more immediate results with Pinterest SEO compared to Google SEO.
- Make at least $700 from The Atlas Heart – I’m trying to double my income every month. 🙂
I was disappointed that my traffic didn’t hit that 30K pageviews mark in September, but I have a feeling that I’ll see a serious uptick by the end of October that will more than make up for the loss.
The one thing that I’m a little anxious about is my new site design going live, which can sometimes cause your site to take a dip in traffic while Google reindexes it.
But again, this is a long game and even if that traffic does dip from the new site, it will rise back up. It’s all about having consistency and patience.
So far, I’m pretty confident in my current strategy for hitting my traffic goals for the rest of the year.