THE SWEETEST WAY'S AUGUST INCOME REPORT
Blogging, Entrepreneurship, Income Reports, Location Independence

The Sweetest Way’s Blogging Income Report: August 2017

Hey guys, welcome to my blogging income report for August 2017. This is only the second blog income report I’ve ever written but based on the success of last month’s report, I can tell you they will be around for a long time to come.

But really, the response to my July income report was completely overwhelming (in the best way possible). I hope that I can make each one even more valuable than the last, so thank you for reading and a very special thank you to everyone who joined in on the conversation, offering advice or showing gratitude for me putting myself out there in such a vulnerable way.

Want to start a money-making blog of your own? Check out my guide here.

So, why am I sharing these blogging income reports, anyway? Let’s recap…

Why I’m Sharing My Blogging Income Reports

I went into greater detail last month about why I’m sharing these blogging income reports, but here’s the basic rundown in case you missed it:

  • To be a better resource for other aspiring bloggers and entrepreneurs
  • To help myself stay more organized throughout the year (for tax purposes, among other things)
  • To reflect on which of my monetization strategies are working and which ones are not
  • For better goal setting and greater accountability
  • Because I’ve found other bloggers’ income reports to be extremely valuable


Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Sweetest Way!


My Goals for August – How I Fared

At the end of last month’s income report, I set myself a number of goals to tackle in August. Here’s how that went:

Develop a content strategy with the help of an SEO consultant – Last month, I started working with Megan Clarke of Clapping Dog Media to improve my web presence and optimize my site for Google searches.

So far, Megan has been working away behind the scenes, putting together what she calls a “findability report” that will tell me all kinds of useful stuff like what keywords I’m ranking for, suggested keywords to target that my competitors are not ranking for, and a strategic editorial calendar with several months worth of content ideas.

At this point, I am still waiting on this initial report from Meg and so have not completed this goal yet. I knew implementing a new SEO strategy would take time though, so I’m not worried–I know it’ll get done, and I know it’ll be awesome.

Share my best affiliate posts on a rotating schedule – Last month, I planned to make a list of my top performing affiliate posts and schedule them for Twitter with the help of Buffer. I will admit, I kind of half-assed this one. I started by scheduling a handful of posts, but I never made the list I said I would and I all but forgot about it by mid-month. This goal will have to roll over into September.

Follow up with new e-book affiliates – I’d had several bloggers reach out about becoming affiliates for my e-book, but I hadn’t heard from anyone and wanted to offer them whatever support they needed to write reviews for their blogs. I completed this goal the day after publishing my income report.

There were only 5 emails I had to send, so it was just a matter of making it a priority. Most of them were grateful for the reminder, and I was able to issue one person their affiliate link. However, I still haven’t seen any book reviews published, so it seems as though following up with e-book affiliates will have to be an ongoing project, along with the task of finding new affiliates to help promote my product.

Consolidate my affiliate partnerships and apply for new programs – While I didn’t do much consolidating, I did manage to join a handful of new affiliate programs this past month, and I got myself better organized with the help of my Google spreadsheet. I’m putting this goal in the Completed column.

Learn why my display ads aren’t performing well and implement changes – One of the best things to come from last month’s income report was that someone from Mediavine reached out to me after reading it, offering a mountain of information as to how I could improve my earnings. Most of her suggestions I was able to implement immediately and I’ve already noticed results.

For example, I switched up the ads that were displayed to remove the leaderboard ad (appearing above my content for desktop users) and turn on the mobile adhesion ad (appearing at the bottom of the screen for mobile users).

She also warned me about an unwanted side effect of running the social sharing plugin Shareaholic. Here’s how she put it:

I noticed that you are running Shareaholic’s plugin which by itself is great. But Shareaholic has a really bad habit of turning on ads with updates. What’s worse is that those ads are programmatic.

Running two kinds of programmatic advertising on your site at the same time essentially gives advertisers a back door to reach your readers at a lower rate. They don’t have to meet the floor price we set because we know how valuable reaching your readership is. Through that back door, they can access your readers for pennies on the dollar. I’m not seeing their ads on desktop but they are definitely appearing on mobile.

That is absolutely affecting your RPM.

A lot of our publishers keep the Shareaholic plugin and just regularly log in to make sure that ads are turned OFF there (because the other thing is that I’ve never actually known a person that Shareaholic paid for serving their inventory!), but I opted to swap it out for another sharing plugin on my own site. Either way, the ads need to be turned off.

So, taking Heather’s advice, I got rid of Shareaholic (rather than worry about checking in regularly to turn off their ads) and installed Social Warfare in its place.

She also gave me suggestions for improving ad visibility on my most popular post (this post about Barcelona gets consistent traffic thanks to Pinterest) which I did immediately as well. I essentially just added additional text and photos to make the post longer, so more ads would appear.

With all of these changes, I have seen my RPM on its way back up, which I find really exciting. In the month of July, my average Session RPM was just $7.73 (remember, that’s the amount I’m earning per one thousand impressions) and during the month of August, that number has climbed to $9.34. Of course, I won’t see August’s earnings until November, but they’re going in the right direction and progress is what counts. Consider this goal Completed AF.

And in case you’re still confused by Mediavine’s payout schedule (like I was) Heather also provided me with this pretty graphic. They use a NET 75 schedule, meaning I get paid 75 days after the last day of the month.Mediavine Publisher Payment Schedule


August Traffic Overview

Remember last month how I said these reports weren’t going to be 100% comprehensive? Well, they’re still not–I’m not reporting expenses yet–but I figured I’d include my traffic this time to provide additional context for my blog’s earnings.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that traffic and blog income aren’t directly correlated–there are bloggers with less traffic than me making way more money, and there are bloggers with more traffic making less. It’s all about how you put that traffic to work–it’s about quality, not quantity.

There are also other many other factors at play, such as the size of a blogger’s email list or social media followings, the monetization strategies they employ, and more.

Here’s a snapshot from my Google Analytics dashboard of my site traffic for August:The Sweetest Way Blog Traffic August 2017

I’ve been struggling to grow my blog’s traffic for several months now. In January, I hit a high with 56,000 page views, and have not been able to match that number since. To say this has been frustrating would be a gross understatement.

This is why I decided to enlist the help of an SEO expert–for a long time I took pride in doing it all myself and in being self-taught, but have since realized there’s no shame in acknowledging your weaknesses and asking for help. This will free up more of my energy for the things I’m actually good at.

Pinterest has been my largest source of referral traffic for as long as I can remember and was responsible for 38% of my new sessions in August. With the frequent algorithm changes Pinterest has seen this year, even this platform is turning into something of an obstacle. In February, I enrolled in Pinterest Organic Traffic Avalanche and have learned some new tricks, but unfortunately, what works for one niche (such as fitness and weight loss, the niche of the course creators) won’t necessarily work for another, and I don’t expect to see the same results that they did, even if I copy their formula exactly.

Organic traffic from search engines is my second largest source and is thankfully growing steadily, accounting for 32% of new sessions. I’ve gained several backlinks from reputable sites this year–including The Penny Hoarder, BuzzFeed, and The Week–which have helped boost my site’s DA (domain authority) to a respectable 38. Building quality backlinks is extremely valuable, so I plan to do more of it in the coming months.

My third largest source of traffic is Facebook, which gave me 6.4% of new user sessions.

Again, I know traffic isn’t everything, but more traffic was never bad for a website, either. I’d love to hit the 100,000-page view mark by year’s end.


Things to Keep In Mind

Just a reminder of some things to keep in mind as you read through this income report:

  • I use cash accounting, so what I’m reporting is the money that actually arrived in my accounts in August
  • I’ve been blogging for three years, but just went full-time in April of this year
  • I’m focusing primarily on growing my passive income streams, like affiliate marketing
  • I have minimal living expenses at the moment, as well as a bit of financial cushion–without those things, I may not have taken the leap
  • I value your feedback greatly–please let me know how I can make these reports more valuable to you in the future

How Much I Earned in August 2017

Display Ads – $357.37

Affiliate Marketing – $284.19

Blogging-Related Services

Online Courses

Remote Job Sites

E-Book Sales – $54

Sponsored Content – $300

Total Earnings: $995.56How I made 1k in August from blogging!


The Takeaways

Ads

As we already discussed, my ad setup underwent a lot of changes this month, and I’ve already started to see results in the form of an increased RPM.

Here’s a handy visual representation of that increase from my Mediavine dashboard so you can see that even though my traffic remained relatively steady (‘Sessions’ represented by the red line), I began earning more almost immediately.Increased RPM from Mediavine ads after implementing their suggested changes.There’s LITERALLY  nothing I love more than instant gratification…except maybe abusing the word ‘literally.’ And while this may seem like an insignificant difference to some people, I’m of the opinion that every last dollar counts. Paying attention to little details is what really pays off in the long run.

I don’t have much else to say here except for the fact that I’m really impressed with Mediavine after they were so proactive about reaching out to me to help me earn more. I was planning to contact someone anyway, but they took the initiative to do so and it was very much appreciated, as was the actionable advice they provided.

Affiliate Marketing

This month was kind of a bummer in the affiliate marketing department with earnings only half of what they were the previous month. However, I have a lot of hope for the future.

The positives:

  • This month, I created the first of several resource pages for readers: a list of all my favorite blogging-related tools which can be accessed directly from the homepage menu. I plan to create additional resource pages for travel and finding remote work. These pages will be home to my favorite recommendations, many of which (but not all) will be affiliate links.
  • I joined a few more affiliate programs that I can start promoting, including services like Trusted Housesitters and online education like the Ultimate Bundles (these e-book catalogs cover topics ranging from healthy living to blogging to entrepreneurship to photography, so there are many products for bloggers to promote).
  • The end of the year signals the start of a major buying season (holiday sales, gift-giving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc) which is a great time to ramp up my affiliate marketing efforts.

Room for improvement: 

  • Amazon – I didn’t earn enough from Amazon in June to receive a payout in August, which is super disappointing considering their payout threshold is ONLY TEN DOLLARS. I’m obviously still missing the mark with this affiliate program.
  • Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing –  I could still use a refresher on this course, so I’ll make it a goal to go through the material again from start to finish to figure out what I’m doing wrong or what I’ve forgotten.
  • Reviews – I want to write more product reviews as a way to improve conversions, so that will be a major goal for September.

E-Book Sales

This month I sold four e-books, an improvement over the single sale I made last month! Two of those sales came from my email list, one from Facebook, and one directly from my site.

Last month I’d mentioned that I needed to update my email funnel, so I looked at the sequence that goes out to subscribers who receive a free chapter of my e-book upon opt-in and made a number of changes. I linked to more blog posts as resources, encouraged people to join my Facebook community, added another email to the sequence, and in general made the messages less salesy and more friendly.

From the beginning, my email list has been the primary source of e-book sales, so that’s where I’ll continue to focus my efforts. ConvertKit makes it amazingly simple to manage my subscriber list and I’m so happy I made the switch from MailChimp.

Read about my experience creating this e-book and what I learned from it.

Download Chapter 1 to find out what this book is all about!

Sponsored Content

I worked with a few different brands on sponsored content in July and got paid for one of those campaigns in August. It involved a blog post, an Instagram post, and a giveaway. It all went exceedingly well, and we’ve left the door open for future collaborations and product reviews, which I’m very happy about.

Throughout the month, I was contacted about a variety of other collaborations and turned most of them down. As I become a more conscious consumer in my daily life, I want any future brand partnerships to reflect that. If I don’t jive with a company’s values or ethos, then we won’t work together, plain and simple.

For me, finding the right partnerships is far more important than finding the most lucrative partnerships.

Goals for September

Review the course material in Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing from start to finish – I could also stand to be more active in the course’s Facebook group, asking questions and getting feedback on the posts I’ve already created. The group members are highly motivated and really generous with their knowledge–for those reasons, it’s one of my favorite groups on Facebook!

Create at least 3 product review posts, optimized for SEO – I have at least one product from Amazon that I’ve been meaning to review for several months now, as well as a few online courses that I still need to review.

Create a list of my top affiliate posts and share on a rotating schedule – This month, I’ll create a spreadsheet to keep track of each post’s shares and affiliate earnings. I’ll dive into each post and analyze things like click-through rates and conversion rates, and modify them as necessary for better performance.

Create a content strategy with the help of Clapping Dog Media – After checking in with Meg recently, I am expecting my initial ‘findability report’ within the week, which should give me a lot of useful information I can put to work.

Focus with laser-like precision on putting out new content – I didn’t write as many new blog posts in August as I would have liked, so I plan to really put nose to the grindstone this month and crank out as many as I can. Thankfully, I am finally taking on a VA to help with some social media tasks that were consuming too much of my headspace and distracting me from what was most important (new content) so I am super excited to start reaping the benefits of having a right-hand woman. Not including my monthly roundups and my blogging income report, I only wrote 7 new posts last month, so my goal for August is 10 new posts.

Wrapping Up

I’ve got a lot to tackle this month, so I’ll have to employ some of my favorite productivity hacks if I want to get it all accomplished by the end of the month. But, at the same time, I’m really excited for the road ahead.

I think having a VA will be a godsend that will allow me to really focus on monetization, and I can’t wait to see what suggestions Meg has for me in the SEO department.

It’ll be important to take care of my mental health too though, so regular exercise, yoga, and plenty of time with my favorite people will be woven into my calendar.

If you have any lingering questions or comments after reading this month’s income report, be sure to leave them down below.

Ready for more posts on blogging?

Until next month!

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12 Comments

  • Reply Karina September 2, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    This is incredibly helpful, Leah! I missed your previous article on this, so I’ll have to check that out as well.

    I just recently launched my own blog and understand your concerns with traffic. I’m finding it to be pretty difficult, along with gaining new subscribers. I guess it’s all part of learning the ropes, though. Looking into a professional who understands everything like you did may have to be something I consider in the future. It can be quite overwhelming.

    Still, I think you’ve managed to make a great sum of money there. Congratulations, as well, on being a full-time blogger! Best of luck in your goals this month! I’m looking forward to your September report! Hopefully I can report some great numbers to you as well.

    Best xx

    • Reply Leah Davis September 5, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Thank you Karina! Above all, I really do want these reports to be helpful to others, so thank you for that feedback. Gaining traffic and subscribers takes time, and like you said, it’s all part of the process. Something you really can’t learn until you’re doing it. I just hope I can put what I’ve learned to use and start to see more aggressive growth. Best of luck to you as well! I’m excited to see how you fare 🙂
      Leah Davis recently posted…8 Mindful Habits Every Work at Home Employee Should AdoptMy Profile

  • Reply Steph September 3, 2017 at 9:05 am

    And people think that blogging is just about writing!! Great results on those Mediavine tweaks.

  • Reply Design by Digital September 4, 2017 at 9:00 am

    This is really awesome to read Leah. Your blog has so much potential, and the fact that you are digging into each income source is fantastic. You’re definitely headed on the right track! As bloggers, I think one of the hardest things we do is figure out what to prioritize. Do we “follow the money” and optimize our highest income source, or do we leap into the unknown and focus on what may or may not pay off? That’s currently what I’m struggling with. Looking forward to reading September’s report next month! 🙂
    xVictoria

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2017 at 5:31 pm

      I struggle with the same thing Victoria! I want to write about the topics that interest me and that feel easy to write, but those aren’t always the posts that have any money-making potential. I’m sure the right balance is out there, but I don’t think I’ve found it yet!
      Leah Davis recently posted…Pinterest Traffic Avalanche: Is It Worth the Cost?My Profile

  • Reply Jade Dsa September 6, 2017 at 11:29 am

    You’re doing amazing! I’m nowhere close to your traffic stats right now, but make most of my money, a pretty decent sum on writing projects. My adsense has been stuck for seemingly ever!

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      That’s great that you are making good money through writing! I know how hard it can be to build blog traffic when you have to make your money elsewhere at first, and I remember how frustrating Adsense was. You’ll get where you want to go, just stick with it!
      Leah Davis recently posted…Pinterest Traffic Avalanche: Is It Worth the Cost?My Profile

  • Reply carrie September 6, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    these are so helpful to read! I’m curious, are you still pinning manually? How have your results been in comparison to using a scheduler. I’m thinking of going back to manual pinning again, but the thought of spending an hour + per day on pinterest sounds miserable to me.

    • Reply Leah Davis September 7, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      Hey Carrie! Yes, I am still pinning manually, but I haven’t seen much of a difference between this method and using Tailwind to schedule all my pins. My Pinterest traffic has remained fairly steady. But, I’m changing up so many other things at the same time that it’s hard to tell if any one thing is having an effect.

      Manual pinning doesn’t take up too much of my time–I just make sure to do it for a few minutes in the morning, mid-afternoon, and again at night. I probably spend no more than 15 minutes total! In fact, I think scheduling everything at once is the more time-consuming route since I’d still want to do SOME manual pinning on top of that. What scheduler are you currently using?
      Leah Davis recently posted…Pinterest Traffic Avalanche: Is It Worth the Cost?My Profile

  • Reply Himanshu kumar September 12, 2017 at 10:43 am

    thank u for sharing this post….

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