How We Made $17,640 Blogging this Month (April 2018)

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Note: This post originally appeared on BreakingTheOnePercent.com in 2018, before we merged DollarSprout and BTOP together.

Ben and I haven’t done an income report in a while (the last one was in January), so I figured it might be a good time to write an update.

It was another record month for our blogging business.

In April, our blogs had a combined revenue of $17,640.

Before April, our best month had been just over $12,000, so this was a crazy jump for us. And if you think it was a big fancy course launch that accounted for the jump, it wasn’t. More on that later.

I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to blog full time and have it pay off in such a big way, but, at the same time, I know Ben and I are only getting started with this business. It feels like we are really onto something good with DollarSprout.

Blog Income Breakdown

As our blogs have grown, we’ve added quite a few affiliate and ad networks. Sharing screenshots from all of them isn’t exactly practical or helpful, but for the skeptics in the room, here are a few screenshots from April:

april blog income reports from affiliate networks

No point in sharing 15+ screenshots, so hopefully this will suffice.

If you aren’t familiar with Ben and me, we run 2 blogs: Breaking the One Percent and DollarSprout (formerly VTXCapital.com). 

Note: We’ve since merged all three into one website, DollarSprout.com.

A lot of folks are curious what our revenue breakdown is for each month (sort of a polite way of asking “Do you only make money by talking about blogging on BTOP?”). Here’s how things looked for April:

blog income report revenue breakdown

For the purposes of making this income report useful and not overwhelming, I’m going to focus the rest of this post on what happened behind the scenes with DollarSprout only.

So what made April so good?

Our traffic for DollarSprout went up. A lot.

Google Analytics traffic stats for april blog income report

As most readers of this blog know, Ben and I are total Pinterest fanatics.

Over the past several months, though, we’ve been having a tougher time getting the huge traffic results from there that we’d grown accustomed to. Not that things are terrible now, but the platform has definitely gotten a lot harder.

As bloggers, we are always told to not depend solely on one traffic source — especially one that you don’t control (like Pinterest). Ben and I decided to take that to heart and began making a concerted effort to improve the SEO of DollarSprout in hopes that we can start getting some consistent Google traffic to supplement our Pinterest and Facebook traffic.

In March, our Google traffic was 12,236.

In April: 41,748.

Related: 50 Smart Ways to Promote Your Blog (And Get Free Traffic)

How are we getting our content to rank so quickly?

We’ve been getting asked this a lot recently. For a blog that is only 7 months old and in a very competitive niche (personal finance), we have been very fortunate to get as much traffic as we have.

Here’s our process, in a nutshell:

website content strategy

Nothing super unique about our approach versus anyone else’s. But consistent effort pays off:

organic traffic growth for DollarSprout

Of course, each step of this puzzle takes a lot of effort. SEO is definitely a long-term game. You can’t just “do SEO” in a day and expect traffic to appear.

How We Do Keyword Research

This post isn’t going to be a comprehensive SEO course (I definitely don’t consider myself an expert). In this income report, I’m just going to focus on keyword research — the first step of our SEO strategy/process.

Turns out, there are a ton of tools out there to help with keyword research (and any other SEO-related task you can think of). The problem, of course, is that they all cost money. And they’re not cheap.

Ben and I have been using a tool called KWFinder, and so far it’s been worth the investment. The monthly plan is $49, but the yearly plan comes out to just $29 a month, which is what Ben and I ended up buying.

There are lots of different tools out there, but we have NOT tried them all. In fact, KWFinder is the only tool we’ve bought so far because it’s the only one in our budget. Tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush are like $100+ per month, which we can’t justify quite yet.

Here’s a basic rundown of our process for choosing keywords for DollarSprout:

keyword research process

Search volume and difficulty scores can both be found via KWFinder.

Here’s a walkthrough of how I found the keyword for an article DollarSprout now has on page 1 of Google for a 90,000 search term:

Keyword research is just the first piece of the SEO puzzle, of course, and there are many nuances that I didn’t go into in the video above, but this should give you a start.

I will say this: If you want Google traffic to your blog and you aren’t doing keyword research, you are wasting your time.

Try KWFinder

Again, other, more expensive tools have more functionality, but KWFinder is a strong bang for your buck if you aren’t ready to shell out over $1K a year on SEO tools.

What We are Focusing on Now

Making another course.

We are working on another product for BTOP that hopefully should launch this summer. In April, course sales accounted for <2.5% of our revenue, which is something we would really like to improve.

Scaling our efforts in SEO.

This month has kind of been an eye opener for us in terms of understanding the true power of SEO. And even though we have worked so hard to get to where are now in terms of Google traffic, I feel like we have only just scratched the surface of our potential there. We are working on hiring more help with 1) regular on-page SEO audits, 2) creating content, and 3) off-page SEO.

Building more relationships in our niche.

This is one of those things that Ben and I took way too long to figure out. Relationships are important. We want DollarSprout.com to be a leader in the personal finance space, but we can’t do that if we operate in a vacuum. We’ve got to get our name out there more.

Work-life balance?

Maybe. I’ll get back to you on that.

Our Income Progression

We’ve come a long way in just 3 years. It almost feels surreal to think that we actually made $17,640 this month (minus about $3.5k in expenses).

I recently made this post in our Facebook group:

april income report preview post on Facebook

blog revenue growth graph by month

My goal right now is to have our first $30,000 month by the end of 2018. It feels crazy to say that, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable.

Do you want to start a blog?

If you somehow made it through my dry SEO videos above and you don’t have a blog, what in the world are you doing here? (Just kidding).

But for real, there is infinite opportunity out there on the internet. It takes an absurd amount of work in the beginning, but starting an online business (whether it’s a blog or something else) truly has the potential to change your life.

If these reports inspire you to actually start your blog, we would be super grateful if you used our Hostgator affiliate link. Here’s a full blog setup tutorial to guide you along.

Author
Jeff Proctor

Hi! I'm Jeff. A personal finance nerd and entrepreneur at heart, I'm here to bring you all the latest cool ways to make and save extra money. I've been quoted in several online publications, including Entrepreneur, NBC News, GoBankingRates, Student Loan Hero, Business.com, Credit Karma, The Simple Dollar, US News & World Report, Lifehacker, MSN Money, Moneyish, Zumper, IdeaMensch, Discover Bank, PrimeRates, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, Club Thrifty, Guru Focus, Rent Track, Fit Small Business, Coupon Chief, and more.

24 comments
Shaun
Shaun

Ben & Jeff, I just want to say congrats, and thank you! This month is clearly a record breaker! Thank you for the wealth of info you guys always provide in you posts. Always an inspiration! Well done guys!!!

Thanks Shaun! You’ve been around for a while and we really appreciate your support!

The Savvy Couple
The Savvy Couple

EPICNESS!

So excited to see your growth as a team. It’s really inspirational to see you guys grow and continue to share such great knowledge.

It was a pleasure featuring you on our site last month. Hopefully, others start to realize you guys are becoming the REAL DEAL in the personal finance niche. PF blog of the year 2018?

Keep crushing it!

Thanks dude! Feels like we are finally starting to get somewhere with everything. Now it’s just about figuring out to scale this thing — no small task for a team with no experience in business haha.

Marc
Marc

That’s really impressive growth from one month to the next. I’ve also used KWFinder and I really like it. In my opinion it’s more user friendly than most other keywords tools out there.

Thanks Marc! It’s definitely been an eye-opening month for sure with regard to the power of SEO. And yeah, KWFinder is awesome for us right now. I’m sure at some point we will upgrade and join the big boys with an Ahrefs subscription, but I don’t think we are quite there yet 🙂

Aja McClanahan
Aja McClanahan

Ya’ll are KILLING it! Congrats and thanks for the SEO breakdown. I agree Pinterest has been weird lately.

Thanks Aja! March and April were a huge turning point for us in the SEO game — it’s been a huge relief! Plus it doesn’t hurt that the traffic has awesome purchase intent 🙂

Pete McPherson
Pete McPherson

Grats guys! Killer month. Would love to see expenses as well 🙂

A lot of our expenses are paid in bulk at the beginning of the year but the approximate break down is something like:

$117/month for hosting + Cloudflare Plus for all our sites
$99/month for current ConvertKit plan
$45/month for Tailwind
$5/month for BB
$3175 to our VAs (editorial work, content marketing, SEO outreach, social media scheduling)
$109 for web design
$100 for outsourced writing (actually written in March but billed in April)
<$100 for monthly fees associated with premium plugins that we pay yearly for $775 in FB ads $29/month for KWFinder --- Total: $4,600(ish) in expenses for a net of just over $13,000.

Haven’t actually done the QuickBooks accounting for this month just yet but that should be pretty close 🙂

That said our out-sourced writing can also vary wildly — pretty sure in April we probably spent closer to $1,000 on writing (versus just $100 last month)… but where we have a backlog of posts to publish, we’re good on content for a while 😮

Sara @ Gathering Dreams
Sara @ Gathering Dreams

Wow! You guys are amazing!
You are such an inspiration! You have achieved so much in such a short time with DollarSprout.

I was very proud to have increased my organic search to over 4,000 a month in April, but now my results look a bit silly compared to yours! 🙂
Going to have to work on SEO a lot more, if I want great results! Pinterest traffic is so flaky, it can drop by 70% in a month!
I completely agree with you that SEO is the way to go.

Can’t wait to keep following your amazing tips 🙂

Thanks Sarah!

And for sure, the Pinterest volatility had us a little worried too. Obviously we all know its super important to diversify your traffic sources and SEO is helping us do just that (plus it helps us grow our email list…another source of traffic/customers)!

Scott at Making Momentum
Scott at Making Momentum

Just wanted to stop by and say a big congrats on killing it! Big fan of all the content you turn out across your different sites (and FB group). Happy to see all the hardwork is paying off!

I am going back through all the BTOP articles now as I continue to navigate the wild roads of this blogging world.

Cheers,
Scott

Gaman
Gaman

This is amazing. As someone who’s trying to ‘resuscitate’ an old blog, I find your post very inspirational. I just started in June, so the organic traffic is nearly non existent at this moment, just like in your chart 🙂 I’ll persevere !

It’s definitely a long game. I would stay “just stick with it” but constantly be re-evaluating what you’re doing. Is it working and you just need more time? Is it not working and maybe you need to try to switch gears. Either way — patience is key.

You got this!

E
E

Hi guys, I was wondering what do you do for off page seo for a blog post?

Hey E!

Obviously the central pillar of off page SEO is linkbuilding…and something we really focus on is relevance. It’s one thing to get lots of links pointing to an article…but even 1-2 highly-relevant links, along with our “somewhat” established brand, can be a killer combo when it comes to ranking.

If you’ve got a site, constantly think about ways you can grow your brand (I think its one of the more important changes in SEO that started in 2017 and is really becoming super prominent in 2018). We’ve also made it a huge priority to focus on overall website UX…optimizing all our pages and making a readers experience as enjoyable as possible.

e
e

Thank you

Michael
Michael

Epic post! Just found your guys site and love it. What an awesome story of success. Hoping to do the same w/my blog! Keep it up, super inspiring!

Thanks Michael!

If you’re super bored you can read our new income report that literally just got published last night, haha.

Tania at IStartHub
Tania at IStartHub

Awesome results, guys! I will follow your journey to achieve similar results with my website. Thanks a lot for sharing!

Canelo Forum
Canelo Forum

Ben & Jeff, I just want to say congrats, and thank you! This month is clearly a record breaker! Thank you for the wealth of info you guys always provide in you posts. Always an inspiration! Well done guys!!!

Acha
Acha

That’s really impressive growth from one month to the next. I’ve also used KWFinder and I really like it.

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