Partners in Fire is officially two years old! I’d love to say that blogging has been an easy journey, and that we’ve made tons of money along the way, but those things aren’t really true. It’s been an amazing journey, that much is true, but none of it has been easy. And we only made about forty-five bucks in our two years of blogging, so we definitely aren’t in it for the money!
Lessons Learned from Two Years of Blogging
We learned a ton about how hard blogging actually is during our first-year blogging (and trust us, that lesson was definitely reiterated during year two!) and we learned more about ourselves and our commitment to the blog during our second year. But we also learned a great deal about monetizing and networking during year two! Read on to see what we learned.
Commitment to Blogging
Partners in Fire published two blog posts per week every single week during our second-year blogging. If that doesn’t show serious commitment and dedication to blogging, I don’t know what does. I even made sure to get ahead of things so I could post from the mobile app if I was going to be out of town. That’s way better than last year, when I let myself get caught up in life and took a six-week hiatus. That hiatus taught me that if I’m going to make it as a blogger, I have to take it seriously.
In it for the Long Haul
As you know from my sarcastic posts on how I made so much money each year blogging, I am in it for the long haul. When I started Partners in Fire two years ago, I expected it to take two to three years minimum to gain traction and start making money. Now that I’m at the two-year mark, I know that wasn’t an exaggeration. It was a realistic expectation as to how blogging works.
I’m so happy that I took the time to write a blog-growth-strategies post every month, because I was able to go back to my 12th month update and see how it compared to the 24th. I had almost double the page views during my 24th month – and it was a good comparison because I didn’t get any major features either month. All the views were due to SEO and social media marketing. It was awesome to be able to go back and see my progress from the previous year.
I also checked my analytics for the past few years. In 2018, we had about eight thousand visitors to Partners in Fire. In 2019, we more than doubled that with about eighteen thousand. That’s ten thousand more users in our second year over our first – which is pretty awesome.
Getting Those Page views
However, I also learned how difficult it is to build and maintain a ton of page views. I was rolling for a few months during my second-year blogging. I was inching closer and closer to two thousand-page views per month, and seeing growth month after month. Partners in Fire was arriving!
But then, sometime around month 20, my page views inexplicably started dropping. As it turns out, a ton of my views were coming from Pinterest, and that was steadily decreasing. I still haven’t figured out why. Month after month, I’ve seen a drop in my page views from the platform.
What I learned from this Pinterest debacle is that you can’t put all of your page view eggs into one basket. I don’t own Pinterest, I don’t know how their algorithm works, and I have no idea what makes a pin go viral. There are beautiful pins that are cleverly designed with clear calls to action which get zero traction, and there are hideous pins that have no point which go viral. Its really difficult for me to figure out what will be popular and why. That means I have to figure out other ways to drive people to my blog.
One of the main lessons I learned during my second year of blogging is that SEO is king. Yes, google constantly changes it’s algorithm, and you never know what the new systems will do for you. However, the basics remain the same. Write good long form content. Use long tail keywords that are easier to rank for. Build back links and authority. These building blocks to SEO don’t generally change much with Google’s algorithm changes.
I’ve been focusing on SEO for the past few months and I’ve definitely seen an improvement. One of the main things I’m doing is going back to earlier posts and re-writing them for SEO. Google loves to see fresh and updated content. It also loves to see things that follow its SEO rules. Updating an old post kills both of those birds with one stone.
It’s also important to write new posts with SEO in mind. I use Uber Suggest to find keywords, and I use my ten free searches every month with Moz as well. These tools help me find awesome long tail key words that don’t have as much competition. I’m obviously not killing it in the SEO field yet, but slowly but surely, I’m building it up.
Monetization is Hard
I’ve been trying to monetize Partners in Fire since day one. And so far, most of the things I’ve done have been failures. To be fair, I did double my blogging income during my second year, but I still made less than a hundred bucks.
The thing is that it’s incredibly hard to make money off of a blog that doesn’t have a lot of page views. I’m sure you will see posts on Pinterests about how some bloggers do it, and that’s great! I’m not saying it’s impossible, it just isn’t the norm. Page views translate into dollars.
Affiliates and Ads
The more people that visit your blog, the more people who might to click your affiliate link. That’s just basic math. If 1% of your visitors buy something, you are going to make a ton more with a hundred thousand visitors than you will with 100 visitors.
Another reason why it’s difficult to monetize with low page views is that a ton of companies don’t want to work with you. You have to have a certain amount of page views for most ad networks, and lots of affiliate companies will reject your application for a lack of views as well. Fortunately, there are a few companies that will give small bloggers a chance, but it’s harder for us.
Some companies will even kick you out of the program if you don’t make a sale. I’ve been rejected from nine out of ten affiliate programs that I applied to on CJ, and CJ will kick me out if I don’t make a sale during the first ninety days. How am I supposed to make a sale if none of their partners will accept me into their programs? It’s a difficult catch 22 for newer bloggers, but one that I’m trying to navigate.
Amazon will also kick you out after three months without a sale, but since it’s all one company, you automatically have access to their entire inventory of products. That makes Amazon a great option for newer bloggers trying to monetize.
I haven’t even tried to get a sponsored post. If my page views are so low that I’m struggling to get companies to work with me through affiliation, why would companies want to pay me for a sponsored post? Maybe I could look into super niche companies who are looking for nano influencers, but I’d rather work on getting my page views up and get companies to want to work with me.
That means my goal for year three is to get enough page views to be seen as a serious partner for companies. I want to engage in sponsorship opportunities, but I also want to make sure I’m providing a tremendous value to the companies that I work with (and to all of my wonderful readers – I won’t take partnership opportunities unless I truly believe in the product and the company! Keeping it real is the most important thing to me!).
What Gets the Page views
In trying to find ways to get more page views, I had to take a close look at what I was writing that resonated most with people. Which of my posts are getting the most page views and why?
My top performing post of the year was my No Spend Year Challenge post. That went viral on Pinterest, and I tried to follow it up with monthly updates (which unfortunately didn’t do so well). After the first month or so, the page views on that dried up.
The two posts that consistently drive the most traffic are Adult Conversations You Must Have Before Moving in Together and How to Be a Twitch Affiliate in 30 Days. The funny thing is that both of these posts were written during my first year, but through Pinterest they continue to drive consistent traffic (though clearly they are getting dated because the Pinterest traffic is drying up. Maybe I should try creating new pins for those two articles).
The two posts that consistently drive traffic via SEO are my posts on the Fundamentals of Fire and Barista Fire. I wrote these during my first year, and they still driving consistent traffic. I did update them both recently for SEO, which I think has helped drive continuous traffic via organic search.
It’s awesome that two of the posts that are specific to the FIRE movement are getting traction via SEO. I’ve tried to parlay that into further success by writing extensively about Coast Fire, Passion Fire, and other aspects of the FIRE lifestyle, but unfortunately, I haven’t found as much success with that. It’s something I will continue to do during my third year though. We wouldn’t be Partners in Fire if we didn’t talk about Fire, now would we?
Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to sell on the posts that get the most page views. I’ve tried writing some affiliate posts for google (the ten best personal finance books is a good example) but those keywords are pretty saturated, so it’s hard to rank for them. A big focus moving forward is going to be writing good SEO for posts that are selling something. It’s a difficult task – I don’t want to be overly selly and I don’t want to sell products that I don’t believe in, but I also want to start generating enough income via blogging to at least cover my expenses. That will be incredibly difficult if I don’t have anything to sell and if I can’t drive traffic when I do have something to sell.
Networking is a Must
Another huge lesson that I learned during my second year is how amazing networking is. I’ve been a pretty steady part of the personal finance Twitter community since I started (and man, those people are the best!) but meeting some of them at Fincon really sealed the deal for me. I’m so glad I went. It helped me put names to some of my Twitter friend’s faces, and I met a ton of other really awesome people as well.
Speaking of Twitter, it really is the best for networking. Everyone on the platform is always willing to help – whether it be give you a click to achieve a goal or give advice when life isn’t cooperating. My Twitter friends have been more supportive than my real-life friends in some cases, and I’m super thankful to be a part of such an awesome community. A lot of my page views have come from there as well. I know for a fact that Partners in Fire wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for all the wonderful friends I’ve made on Twitter.
Partners in Fire has been around long enough to be considered an established blog. Moving forward, we want to parlay that longevity into more search engine trust. Our main goal for our third year is to increase our reach via organic search. That means building back links, updating old posts, and even moving to HTTPS (thank you Mastermind Within!).
A secondary goal is to identify and fix whatever went wrong on Pinterest. We’ll start by creating new pins for our highest performing posts on the platform. We’re also open to investing in a Pinterest class to see if that helps.
A final goal is to build up our other social media platforms. Twitter has been great, and I’m sure we’ll get past the 5K mark this year, but I’m going to be bold and make it a goal to get to 10K. I still haven’t found my footing on either Facebook or Instagram, but maybe the third year is a good time to really dive into one of those platforms and try to increase my reach there.
I think if we do these things, we’ll see a huge increase in our page views, and from there we will make enough money during our third year to at least break even on the blog. Follow along with our blog growth strategies to see how we do!
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.