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Last Updated on September 30, 2022
How do blogs make money? In my Blog Income Report for February 2020, I’m sharing my online business strategy tips and ideas that helped me earn $23,713.26 in just one month online. A combination of Adthrive display ads on WordPress, affiliate marketing (read: passive income!) and digital course sales helped me reach my goals of being a full-time blogger and online entrepreneur.
This post is sponsored by Bluehost. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make it possible for us to provide free content and blogging business inspiration.
Welcome back to our online business income reports! You might remember back in January 2018 we published our very first income report over on my blog, Root + Revel–it was actually for the entire year of 2017 (hint: I earned over $75,000 blogging in just my second year of blogging!).
It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging for just over 4 years now, and even more amazing that my income went from $6,500 in my first year of blogging to $150,000 in my third year (including $58,000 while on a four-month maternity leave) to nearly $200,000 in my fourth year, and I’m on target to hit my goal of $650,000 in annual revenue in year five. #fingerscrossed
I know sharing my income with you might seem a little crazy, but let me explain.
TLDR: If this isn’t your first rodeo and you’ve been following allowing with these income reports for a while, you can skip to the next section titled Total Income.
And they’ve inspired me so much, not only to know what’s possible in the world of blogging as a business, but also with their incredible ideas and generosity in sharing their mistakes and successes along the way.
And now, I want to return the favor. I feel like I’m at a point with Root + Revel where I have something valuable to share about making money online, something that I hope will help you learn how to make money doing something you love, something that lights you up every day and makes you excited to get to work, something you’re passionate about, something that impacts others for the better, something you can do from your couch in your jammies or on a beach in the Caribbean or at a desk in a co-working space at whatever dang time you please because YOU’RE YOUR OWN BOSS.
Please know, the goal of these income reports is not to brag or show off or pat myself on the back (though it’s always a good idea to celebrate your own successes, too!). Rather, my goal with these income reports is three-fold:
I’ve been self-employed for nearly a decade at this point, but since I began blogging full-time in January of 2017, my life has exponentially improved.
I’m finally writing the stories that I want to tell, I’m finally helping others to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives, and I’m doing it ALL on my own terms.
I’m so proud and happy to report that life is so much better now that I’m truly my own boss and a full-time blogger. I look forward to each and every day–I wake up excited to work, I’m always learning something new and I love the challenge of running your own business, constantly coming up with new ways to monetize and help people, simultaneously.
Alright, enough talk. Let’s take a look at the numbers for February 2020.
How do blogs make money?
*Note: $23,624.45 is what I earned on an accrual basis, but I’ve recently started using Quickbooks and have switched over to the Cash method of accounting. I only mention this because I use the cash method for tracking expenses, which I share below.
I’m changing up how I report my expenses a bit here to streamline and simplify. Instead of listing out the exact expenses for each item, I’m just going to list out some of my favorite resources and services that I use every month to help me keep the blog up, running and profitable.
They’ve got a few different plans, but I recommend just starting with the Basic Plan for just $2.95/month (this is a special deal just for my readers; normally it’s $7.99/month). I also recommend choosing the 36-month plan, which will help you save money, too. Another way to save money? Sign up for eBates, the FREE cash back app that gives you extra money in your pocket! With Bluehost, you’ll get $10 cashback.
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*Note: I did not include my owner’s pay and taxes above, although I do pay myself a salary from Root + Revel’s gross revenue. However I did include expenses for affiliate payouts since we used affiliates to help us sell 6FBA.
Coming off of our first ever six-figure MONTH last month, it was hard to swallow a month where our profit was only $124 BEFORE I even paid myself. But the good news is that it’s all evening out and we’re still way in the black for the year (2 months in, ha!) with lots of new revenue generating projects happening in April and beyond. Basically what happened is that we paid out all of our affiliates from January in February and some other expenses related to our course launch (plus hiring a new full-time employee), so on an accrual basis, we had a much larger profit, but on a cash basis, it looks like much less.
Whew! I know that’s a lot to take in. One of the things I hope people will takeaway from these reports is just how much work, energy, thought and heart goes into running a blog. It’s not just as simple as slapping up a few words and an iphone photo and pressing publish.
Before we get into the details, I also wanted to share my traffic totals for December 2019.
*Note: Moving forward I’m only tracking traffic for my blog, rootandrevel.com. My personal brand, successwithsoul.co, is not included in the traffic totals below since we are not currently monetizing the blog component, though I do track email list growth as that’s the primary way we make money.
Note: I’m interested to see that our Google traffic is down again (will have to look into this), as well as our Direct traffic, and Facebook referral traffic.
Note: This screenshot comes from my dashboard in Active Campaign.
The bots are back at it again, so while this shows we had over 2,000 new subscribers to R+R’s list, nearly all of those were bots and not active and engaged contacts. But there is good news about actual active contacts:
Our 2020 goal is to grow our combined lists to 35,000 active and engaged subscribers. After just two months, we’re already at 19,092, nearly 55% of our goal. So I’m feeling VERY optimistic 🙂
Some other cool stats: our highest open rates come on Tuesdays, Sundays, Fridays and Mondays. Our best times to send: 11 am EST (by a landslide!), followed by 12 PM, 2 PM and 9 AM. My top opt-in was for my 99-Step Roadmap to Profitable Blogging, follow by my Library of Resources, PCOS Recipe Guide, Pantry Checklist, and DIY Cleaning eBook.
I get all of these reports in Active Campaign which is easily one of the very best email service providers around! One of my favorite features Active Campaign offers is Predictive Sending (they’ll send your emails at the most optimal time for each individual subscriber), which I know has increased our open rates as many of our customer automations have over a 60% open rate.
Last month, we created all new Welcome Series by segment for our R+R list to boost open rates. We went from a 24.95% open rate and 4.89% click through rate to now a 43.65% open rate (on average across the 5 new automations) with a 15.63% click rate. How amazing is that? By providing our subscribers with more customized, targeted and valuable content, we were able to improve our results! Win win!
I’ll keep you posted in the coming months whether this translates to an increase in affiliate income and blog traffic (and thus ad income). Fingers crossed!
This is a new metric I’m adding to my income reports, as SEO is such a focus for us right now and I want to track how our efforts are working.
Note: DA is a ranking metric developed by Moz that predicts how well a site will rank on Google, and is measured on a scale of 1 to 100. The closer you are to 100, the more traffic and better ranking you’ll have.
My goal for 2020 was to increase R+R’s RPM to $125, so we’ve got a ways to go, but I’m confident we can do it! This RPM is for our entire site, not just ads.
Note: RPM stands for Revenue Per Mille, or the revenue earned per 1,000 pageviews. When you look at RPM, you put the focus on optimizing your revenue as efficiently as possible, rather than just getting the most people to your site. For example, a site with 100,000 pageviews and a $1 RPM makes $100, while a site with 20,000 pageviews and a $10 RPM makes $200. This is good news because it means you don’t have to have TONS of traffic to make a great income. In fact, when you niche down and focus on providing as much value as possible to your current audience, you earn more money.
Running a blog and online business is a TON of work and each month I feel like I could fill an entire notebook with “what I focused on” details. But for everyone’s sanity’s sake, I’m going to keep this list simple and straightforward, and talk about the 3 key areas we focused on in February.
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because I can’t share too many of the details just yet. But here’s a sneak peek of what’s coming in March:
Convinced you need to jump on the blogging train? Get started with our free quiz below!
Each month, I feature one question about online business from a reader. But sadly we didn’t get any questions last month. We did, however, receive an amazing testimonial from one of my 6FBA students so I want to take a minute to do a student spotlight. This comes from Tisha Riman:
I have absolutely loved this course–I devoured all of it in a matter of days, and then went back and started implementing changes. Prior to the course, I felt I lacked direction, and after taking so many other courses, I thought I was doing everything right–and was getting little to no traffic, let alone monetization. Since taking 6FBA I realized there was tons of things I was lacking, and quickly started making changes to my blog. In the month that I’ve been in the course, I’ve been offered a monthly contract with a health food brand, I’ve doubled my traffic, I’ve seen an increase in email subscribers and instagram followers, and I finally have a game plan. I’ve started batching my content, and having weekly deadlines, and the routine is definitely paying off. I recommend this course for anyone who felt they were doing everything right to no avail (chances are, you’re not). While you don’t have to be a healthy lifestyle niche to benefit from this course, for me this was what sealed the deal–getting very concrete examples of where to focus my energy. The payment plan is also been a great way to take this course when you’re on a tight budget (like I am). Overall, I’ve loved the course, and I’m excited to see where it takes me! The biggest asset this course has is it gives you an action plan like none I’ve ever seen (love the checklist). Every time I get distracted and don’t know what to do next, I look at the checklist and it gives me a direction. Since taking the course, I’ve pitched more brands, I’ve collaborated with other bloggers, I’ve improved my Pinterest strategy. This course takes out so much of the overwhelm and I feel like it actually just gave me a game plan.
For next month, please leave a comment below if you have a question that you would like me to answer.
Please know, I am keenly aware that I have the flexibility, freedom and finances to work on this blog and online business as my full-time job because of YOU–dear reader, sharer, Pinner, commenter, Liker, customer or silent follower of Root + Revel. Your support and participation in the R+R community reaches beyond just this website.
This month, I donated to The Giving Kitchen in your name, as supporting our local restaurant industry during this pandemic is so important. TGK provides emergency assistance to food service workers through financial support and a network of community resources. If you’re in Atlanta, I hope you’ll join me in supporting those in the hospitality industry who always take such good care of us!
I am so incredibly grateful for you. Thanks for showing up!
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We are an LGBTQIA-affirming, interfaith-oriented, diverse organization. We are committed to social and environmental justice, including civil rights, dismantling systems of oppression like the Patriarchy, White Supremacy and Diet Culture. We believe Black Lives Matter.