The First Year of Blogging: Twelve Months of Reflection

By Todd Kunsman

Make Money

Published on

Updated on

This week last year, I made Invested Wallet public with a handful of posts I wrote ahead of time. It’s a year that I can’t believe is already here, but time flies when you are having fun!

A few months back I did a six months recap and I had no plan to write this one. For one, I think it can take away from the real purpose of this website which is about personal finance and investing.

But, I also realize there are quite a few personal finance bloggers that do read my site and this information may interest them. And, I think it is a good reflection point for me and to keep tabs on future growth.

Lastly, I was also inspired by Financial Mechanic, who also just had a one year anniversary and encouraged me to do this as well via a Twitter convo. So here we are!

The Purpose of Invested Wallet

Since day one, I’ve treated this blog as a business and have no problem admitting that I created this site to make money. The real win for me though, is that this is something I’m also passionate about and love writing articles on these topics.

So the potential of starting a business from a passion that makes money, is a huge win in my book.

I’ve been amazed at the feedback, encouragement, and the amount of people reading my content in a short period of time. I’m not a guru or advisor, but if I can be relatable and encourage others, then I’m happy (even if this blog doesn’t change my financial life).

Many of you who have read my start here page or have followed me for a bit, know I work in marketing full-time. So I do have a slight advantage and skillset that helps me fuel some growth, but I still have plenty to learn too.

But, my strategy involved looking at this as a business right from the start and guided my decisions on building this brand. Below you’ll see some milestones of my first year of blogging, part of my strategy, and my continued plans.

There will be transparency to an extent, but like much of my content, there are some areas I keep private. It’s not to hide things by any means, but protection for myself and my comfortability as to what is out there publicly.

Invested Wallet Milestones

Before I get into my thoughts and strategy behind my approach, below are some cool milestones from the past year I thought was worth sharing.

But first, some content worth noting.

Here are some of my favorite pieces of content:

Some of the most popular ones (pageview wise)

Now to the milestones…

Was featured on a few major publications:

This was early part to my strategy, was to legitimize my site further and get the brand out there when I was completely new to the personal finance world.

I’ve slowed down a bit on this now, but here are some publications I’ve been quoted or featured in:

  • CNBC
  • Business Insider
  • TIME
  • MarketWatch
  • Yahoo Finance
  • GoBankingRates
  • Rockstar Finance
  • Huffington Post
  • MSN

Most of the above was using HARO, which can be challenging for bloggers.

Many bloggers try and have a hard time getting noticed by the journalists using this platform. However, I had a response formula and approach, which had a pretty good success rate.

The other issue with some, is many won’t link back to your website. That’s fine if they put a no-follow tag (meaning no SEO link juice), but that B.S. line about how they can’t link back to you is frustrating. You need the quotes, but can’t cite it properly to the source? Good SEO involves external linking too. /rant.

Had my first month of $1,000+ revenue

Again, I’ve treated Invested Wallet as a business since day one. But, I also know that blogging takes time and in the first year, most people do not make money directly from their blog. And most who do, generally make it from freelancing or consulting or have some big money working behind the scenes to fuel growth, neither of which I have done currently.

My focus has been on producing quality and interesting content, which will then lead to revenue. I also have a full-time job that pays the bills, so anything from the blog right now is just a bonus.

However, I’ve been making some money since late 2018, but it was the 11th month that brought in the most. This has been exciting and very promising to see, especially since I’m not hustlin’ as  hard as possible (more on this in the strategy section).

My revenue streams from the blog currently are ads (just started this in April), affiliate marketing, and sponsored posts. Eventually, I want to scale down the ads and focus on other revenue streams. But looking at it as a business, some monthly recurring revenue from ads is important for now.

Yes, ads can hinder the user experience, but I think it’s fine for bloggers to consider it to make some money. Blogging is HARD and I still put hours and hours into this. I think we all deserve to get paid.

The First Year of Blogging: Twelve Months of Reflection

My SEO is kicking-in

Again, having a digital marketing background has served me well when it comes to SEO. But no matter how good you are at this, a new blog takes time to start to rank and show results.

Below is a screenshot from my Search Console of the last year, and took about 8-9 months to start spiking upward. (Ignore the random spike, there was a viral anomaly there).

The First Year of Blogging: Twelve Months of Reflection

I also checked my domain authority score, (scoring system to predict how authoritative your site is). Pretty pleased with the score for being a newbie blog as well. (Cue all the outreach to link to others stuff ?)

The First Year of Blogging: Twelve Months of Reflection

Crossed 16,000+ pageviews in month eight

From January to February of this year, I more than doubled my traffic. This was due to two things: SEO kicking in and a viral Reddit post.

But February was my eighth month of existence and I passed 16,000 pageviews! I know some bloggers who started around the same time as me or just a month or two before me, who have 2x or 3x that.

But keep in mind, this is me writing only two posts a week and doing casual marketing because I fear burnout (more on that in the strategy). I was also writing 1x per week for the first six months.

So I am pumped about that number and this has continued to grow since, even as we hit the summer traffic slump (I’m now hovering around 18k-20k/per month).

The First Year of Blogging: Twelve Months of Reflection

52,000+ individual people visited the site

This is the number of new users who have visited Invested Wallet at the time of writing this (week earlier from the published date). This is not pageviews, this is 52,000+ people!

I had a music blog before that I started in 2010 and have run business blogs for companies, but numbers like this still blow my mind. I picture this number of people and can’t fathom that this is how many people have been on the blog or read content. It’s truly amazing.

The First Year of Blogging: Twelve Months of Reflection

First Year of Blogging Strategy

While I’m excited about the numbers and growth, I’m by no means doing the best for a new personal finance blogger. There were moments of frustration and questioning myself, but I always step back for a moment and regain composure.

Also, I’m not hustling as hard as I can be. But I chose that for a reason: eliminating potential burn out.

Everyone is wired different in blogging and growing their blogs. For instance, If I wrote 3x a week, spent more time guest posting, and dedicated 2x more time promoting, I’m pretty sure my numbers would be doubled by now.

But here’s the thing, I love my full-time job in digital marketing. I’m on a computer a lot writing content for my job, doing SEO, paid ads, running strategy, and tons more. I fear marketing burnout and becoming obsessed with the traffic numbers game, so I ensure my time on the blog is limited.

I want to pursue Invested Wallet for the long haul, I don’t want to burn out and quit the momentum I’m building. Nor do I want to have mental exhaustion, which can affect other areas of my life. That said, my approach has been slow and steady, but methodical.

So even though I treat this as a business, it’s still a side business where I’m okay with not grinding as hard as others to make it successful immediately. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still putting in the work, but I’m running at maybe 60% capacity of what I’m capable of and I’m fine with that.

Highlights of My Strategy

Below is a snippet of my strategy, which you are welcome to try for your own blog. But remember, your blog —  even if it is a similar category — is unique. What works for me may not work for you very well.

  • Paid someone to build my site to look professional from day one. I could have figured it out on my own, but my time is better spent on other areas.
  • Get in major publications within the first six months. This was a deliberate strategy for building credibility, traffic, email subscribers, and drive brand awareness to something new.
  • Be seen anywhere and everywhere. Again, I took my time with this but I’d post to major socials, share on Reddit, post answers on Quora, find Facebook groups, share on forums, testing Facebook ads occasionally, etc. I focused on Quora quite a bit and have over 130k answer views as of writing this. I would recommend starting to focus on one outlet first, then move on to the next after you start to master it.
  • Write high quality posts, both with personal and SEO. Many bloggers will say choose one side of that to focus on. Nah, I’m doing both. I write personal stories to build a connection, but focusing solely on that takes a really long time to build up an audience. SEO takes time to work too, but can bring in the recurring traffic monthly as you rank for phrases, intent, and keywords. Again, nothing wrong with choosing one or the other, but I made it a combo. Agree or disagree, but it’s been working so far.
  • Try to add something different to the conversation. Too many blogs write the same listicle articles that have been written 5,000 times. You might rank in Google one day, but the odds are stacked against you. I, for sure, do some of these that may have been written about a bunch, but I look to add more to it or add some personal flair. There may be some overlap ideas, but the reader hopefully gets more connection or insight to me.
  • Post content on a consistent schedule. I was at first only publishing once a week and typically was on a Tuesday if I recall, but it wasn’t always consistent. I switched that up to post twice a week every Monday and Thursday. I have not missed a day since mid-Fall when I switched this up. I think it’s been powerful to keeping an audience coming back when they know to expect something new on specific days.
  • Joined some blogger share groups. Not always a fan of doing this, but I saw value in this whether it drove clicks or not. By joining some groups, I discovered a lot of great bloggers, but was able to help them out as they helped me out. I wouldn’t say these drove a ton of traffic, but the brand visibility to more connections of other bloggers is worth it for a bit.

Of course the above are very basic levels of the strategy, there is a lot more to my thinking. And not everything worked either, but you have to test and experiment.

My Plans for Year Two

My plans for this next year of blogging is quite simple: It’s sticking to my content schedule and consistency of writing quality. Blogging is a long-game approach, so I’m still not expecting to make huge income even from year two. If it happens, awesome!

Also I’m looking for some syndication opportunities on bigger publications, currently I do so with The Ladders. Would be awesome to get on MarketWatch or Business Insider.

As far as some additions to the website, I’m looking at building some calculators (not the simple standard ones that have been done too many times), potentially do some digital products, and continue to scale up affiliate marketing further.

Otherwise, my plans are really up in the air still as I’m figuring out what I want Invested Wallet to truly be and where it could go.

As far as financially from the blog, it could go in a few directions all of which I’m open to happening:

  • Generates recurring monthly income that covers all my expenses. This number is around $1700 currently and will be lower once I pay off the remaining student loan debt. I believe this has the highest probability of happening, whether sooner or in year two or later on. This is especially possible because I already pulled close to that this past May. Then I could save 100% of my full-time income which is a game changer financially.
  • Becomes my only job. I always wanted to work for myself at some point without the need for a job. I have the entrepreneurial bug. In fact, I learned how to set up an LLC with the help of my good friend and I’m also doing some Quickbooks management myself. But, if the income of this site grows, there is potential I will pursue this full-time. No immediate rush, because I love my full-time job currently.
  • Someone offers to buy it or I put it up for sale. This is probably the lowest on the totem pole of chances, but part one of this is not entirely off the table. Eventually, if another brand or person offered to buy out Invested Wallet (whether for the domain name, content, income, etc), I would be open to consider it. Of course financially, it would have to make sense. I see a lot of potential in keeping the blog, so selling it would not be easy. The other option is, I eventually sell it on my own to pursue something else. That could happen one day, but I currently don’t see myself just putting the site up for sale on my own. I love personal finance and investing, plus writing about it on the blog is a lot of fun.

That was a pretty gnarly recap and if you made it through all that, then you deserve a gold star. Overall, I’m pleased with how the first year of blogging went for Invested Wallet. I hope I can continue to elevate this blog to the next level.

Do you have any questions on the above? What do you think I can do to grow this more? If you have a blog, how did your first year of blogging go? Let me know in the comments below.