Welcome to our latest interview with a great money blogger!
As always, our questions are in bold italics and the interviewee’s responses follow in black.
With that said, let’s get started…
Determining Your Strategy and Overview
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your site.
I launched “Prime Time Money” in the Spring of 2007 on Blogger! That next year I purchased ptmoney.com and started hosting my site on WordPress (great move!).
The blog (eventually shortened to just PT Money) was a way for me to share my story of improving my financial life and hold myself accountable. I totally geeked out on it and made the blog my full-time living in 2010.
A year later I started the Financial Blogger Conference (now just called FinCon) and have been running both businesses since.
I have my CPA, too, and I live in Texas with my family of five.
What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
I’m trying to help young married couples 5-10 years younger than me gain financial freedom and independence (so they can stay at home with their kids or start a business).
I do this by first helping them understand the basic concepts of personal finance and then discover the systems and tools that they can use to get there faster. I like to think of my site these days as a mini-NerdWallet with a face.
On the site, you can find a lot of objective comparisons and reviews (best savings accounts, savings apps, etc.) from me and my team.
What is your elevator pitch?
My website is essentially “my story with money.” That’s the main thing that threads its way across the content: me, PT.
If you can see my failures and successes with money then you can attach yourself to my story and see yourself also moving in a positive direction.
If that doesn’t work, I usually tell people I’m a little bit like Dave Ramsey. Even as a CPA I was terrible at money for a while and then I figured it out and fixed things…you can too!
Who is your target reader?
I like to think I’m most effective when talking to my past self – younger married guys with a college education who have recently decided to get their finances together – either because they are getting married or they are having kids. I can really speak to these guys with conviction.
But I have a long-time female writer/editor, Emily Guy Birken, who tackles subjects more near and dear to the female audience. That, along with a good Pinterest marketing strategy tends to bring in a big female audience for one-offs.
What special skills, experiences, knowledge, etc. do you bring to your blog?
In my past life I was in a band. I was the drummer and the promoter. I built the band’s website and did all the guerrilla marketing. It got me “into” building things on the Internet in my early 20s. I loved it and I understood the power of it.
I’m also a CPA, which gave me a bit of tax, retirement planning, and business knowledge.
What are your general goals and strategies for the next couple of years?
I’d like to write more personal articles about things that are important to me currently so I can authentically share more of what’s going on and really connect with people. I really value the power of the money story.
Also, I have over 1,200 articles on my site and many of them need cleaning up or they need to be combined into bigger, all-inclusive guides. I’m constantly auditing my site these days.
Finally, I’d like to share more fun, sharable pieces as well. I used to do that well and have lost that flair, a bit.
In terms of revenue, I’d like to get back to making six figures in revenue. It’s been at least four years since the site did that and I know it’s possible with continued effort on improving the quality of the content and doubling down on what’s working financially vs trying to cast such a wide net.
I’ve got too many advertisers and I’m trying to do too much. It isn’t easy for a two person operation to keep up with the NerdWallets of the world.
Designing a Great Site
How did you come up with the name of your site?
Growing up my best friend would call me “PT”. And at the same time, Deon “Prime Time” Sanders was a big deal, so people would call me that too. I sort of melded the two ideas into the URL and the site name, eventually dropping the “Prime Time” for simply PT Money.
Some people are confused by the name, and it’s certainly hamstrung me, but now people in the industry know me as that so it would be weird to call the site something else. I’ve strongly considered a switch to “Part-Time Money”, which most people think PT Money means anyway. But I just haven’t made the move. And honestly, I could see myself running this blog forever and so why not let it just be me and my nickname. If I’m making good content, who cares?
Do you have a site summary statement/tagline? If so, what is it?
Yes. This has also evolved through the years though.
I think at first it was “Make Money, Save Money, Spend Money Wisely.” Pretty straightforward.
Then, in an effort to appeal to the “Part-Time” money concept, I changed it to “Do More with Your Money in Half the Time.”
I’ve since dropped that and rely just on the home page headline, “Find the best money tools you need to use today! … on your journey towards financial independence.”
What do you like about the design of your site?
Function over form. The site works well on desktop and mobile. It’s fast. And it’s easy for readers to find and read the information they want.
I’ve got a lot of material so the home page design and custom sidebars really helps readers find what they need. Our “Best Of” page helps, too.
A little over a year ago I invested in some professional lifestyle headshots that I’m able to use across the site. It lends a lot of trust, authority, and credibility with both the reader and advertiser.
I design and maintain the logo and site myself, with the help of a developer I found on Upwork. We have a few customizations applied, but it’s mostly out of the box stuff that I’ve refined. We built it on WordPress, of course, using the Dynamik child theme for Genesis. And the menu is driven by the Uber Menu plugin.
Are you active on social media? If so, please give us details on how you use your main selections.
I’m personally active on Twitter. I use it to share random ideas and to connect with others like me. I used to do a really great job at curating content (much like what you guys do at Rockstar) and share on Twitter. But I’ve gotten out of the routine. Twitter is great for networking and curating.
Our main source of social referral traffic (10x any other platform) is Pinterest. All of our popular articles have a nice Pinterest style post – some I did myself, some (of the better ones) were designed by Libby Gifford, who is now the Creative Director for FinCon. Good looking pin-able images go a LONG way with having success on Pinterest. Only in the past 4 years have I attempted to really grow my actual presence there – adding followers, boards, and regular pinning. That effort used to produce amazing results, but it seems Pinterest has turned off the spigot and we’re back to normal 10x referral numbers.
I’m also on Facebook, but mainly use it to stay connect with the FinCon group and some other groups I’m a part of. Instagram is more personal for me, but I do share things there occasionally. And, of course, LinkedIn, but that’s mainly for networking. The only place I’m regularly sharing content is on Pinterest.
Developing Awesome, Shareable Content
What are the main topics you cover and why?
We cover a broad range of topics. But I usually cover what’s of interest to me: financial independence and investing, real estate (I’m a landlord), side hustles / small business, taxes, travel hacking, and family finance.
One of the things that’s allowed me to stay in the blogging game for so long, I think, is the fact that I give myself permission to write on a wide range of topics. It’s hurt my growth to a degree. I think had I been more niche at first I would be branded as the X guy and received more of an engaged audience. But sometimes just being in the game longer than anyone else has its advantages. And since we do comparisons and review we cover a lot of that material. We’re always reviewing something or adding to our long list of comparison pages.
What topics don’t you cover and why?
I’m not into active investing or budgeting or get out of debt topics. We will touch on them occasionally, but they aren’t interesting to me personally anymore and so I’m out on them.
Also, we also don’t really cover any news or hot topics really. All of our content is evergreen in nature and really aimed at getting a long term audience from the SERPs.
What guidelines do you use for length and frequency of posts and why?
Currently I’m aiming for one to two posts a week. I do this to keep the site fresh and relevant. Length wise we’re aiming for around 1,200 words. But we love it when the post gets upwards of 1,500 or 2,000. The deeper and richer the content the better.
Like I mentioned earlier, we’re doing a lot of site cleanup these days and so we’re seeing 3 or 4 posts in the 400-800 range being combined to make 2,000 word guide posts.
Can you give us three posts of yours that you would you say are Rockstar content (with a brief explanation of each)?
- How to Save 20% of Your Income (Consistently) Each Year in Your 30s – I share my story with successfully saving a large chunk of my money in my 30s and what the end results are. If there is a history of PT Money, this is it.
- The Secret to Becoming Your Own Financial Expert – You don’t need permission to fix your financial life. You can do it! 95% of personal finance can and should be DIY. In this post I explain why and how to do it yourself.
- 10 Things You Can Do Today to Be a Better Spender – Frugality is a discipline that all should practice. Like fasting for health, coming back to being a good steward of your spending should be a regular practice in your life.
What have been your past sources of traffic? How did you develop them and how successful has each been?
Over 70% of my 250,000 monthly page views come from Google and other search engines. The rest of the traffic comes from social (mostly Pinterest), other sites, and a small bit of direct.
My search traffic was developed by writing content that answers people’s questions. Google rewards publishers that answer questions well. Each one of my 1,200 posts is a potential answer for someone. The sheer volume of content helps. But I’ve also developed back links to my site and content from other authoritative sources. I did this by serving as a source for others, writing guest posts, and generally networking with other creators in the FinCon community.
Search traffic is really successful for monetizing. The searcher is in a place where they need something. They aren’t casually browsing like a social media user. So if you answer their question well, they take action. And in my case, that action is in the form of a new savings account or app download.
I developed my Pinterest traffic by adding great looking pin-able images to my top content. This really does work. Just enable the pinners to do their thing. Once they pin your best stuff to the Pinterest platform it has a chance to take off.
What are you doing to grow traffic now and in the future?
I’m trying to grow traffic by continuing to get back links by serving as a source, collaborating, writing better content, and improving the content that I already have.
I’m improving content by expanding on topics, combining short posts into guides, and doing a bit of internal link improvements.
I’m also continuing to work on site speed, mobile accessibility (i.e. AMP), and keeping people on the site just a bit longer using videos or calculators or other on-page tools.
Deliver Revenue and Profit
Does your blog make money?
Yes, PT Money makes money! The site generated roughly $75,000 in revenue in 2017.
Previous years the site has generated as much as $350,000 in revenue.
When I left the corporate world in 2010 to blog full-time, the site was making $3,500 a month.
If so, how does it make money?
We monetize through affiliate marketing, display advertising, sponsored posts, and even a small content licensing deal with a company called Written.
Affiliate marketing is the biggest piece of the pie. We earn anywhere from $1 to $500 per customer we acquire for financial advertisers (banks, brokers, credit cards, etc.). Our reviews and comparisons generate most of this revenue. I love affiliate marketing. It’s passive and has the potential to really create massive revenue with the right offer and traffic combination. Every large blog sale I know of generated their revenue on affiliate marketing.
Right now we are trying a new display network — Mediavine. Through the years I’ve used Google Adsense, Monumetric, and Media.net.
We do one sponsored post campaign a month or every other month. Our 2017 price is $2,500 (or $1250 affiliated). We’re lucky in that we’ve been able to find plenty of companies we align with.
Written has one blog post licensed out to an advertiser for roughly $200 a month. Essentially my blog post got put on the advertiser’s site and I redirect my traffic to it. I chose to do this with a piece of content that didn’t really make any money for me through affiliate or display.
Are you trying to have the blog make more and if so, what are you doing in that effort?
Of course! I’d always like to make more. I feel like I need to concentrate on just my top 5-10 affiliate offers and double down on my effort there vs trying to cast a wider net. I feel spread too thin. It’s so tempting to work with new advertisers that come along. Especially since they could also become a FinCon sponsor/exhibitor. I talk to everyone who comes along.
More traffic equals more revenue so of course I’m trying to increase traffic. I shared my ideas about search above. But I’d also like to continue experimenting with paid traffic via Facebook ads. Chenell from Conversion Owl is helping me out there and we’ve almost got it figured out.
What are your future plans for the blog?
I see myself tinkering with the site for the rest of my life. There’s always so much to do with it to make it better. I enjoy that, so I’d like to keep it around. Of course, if I could get it making $350,000 again, I might look to sell it since it’s worth so much at that point. But $75,000 a year from this blog after working just two days a week on it seems like a huge win and something I’ll ride into the sunset. I’d like to work on making it something special for my kids to see and to help them as well – both with their finances and give them some business savvy.
Tell us something about yourself that you haven’t mentioned on your blog.
I’ve mastered my money and will soon be financially independent, but I’ve yet to master my health. I wish health and fitness could be hacked and systematized like money — at least I’ve found that it can’t be. It’s a struggle for me and something I feel like I have to be very diligent on to be successful. Luckily, my finances have created more time for focusing on health and I’ve put that to good use — making more meals and working out more. I lost over 70lbs in 2016! I’m hoping that one day fitness and health can be just as important to me as money. We’ll see.
What is one bit of advice you would give to someone who is just starting a blog?
Niche down, focusing on your story and your unique ideas, and then expand out to cover more ground once people know you. It’s so crowded – and it’s always been, really – so make sure you stand out initially.
Secondly, I’d say that networking can really change the game for you. It did me. Other people in the financial blogging community can be a huge encouragement and resource for you to lean on. Don’t work in a silo. Collaborate, don’t compete.
Name your favorite blog, other than your own, that you read the most.
Dough Roller. I love Rob’s voice and personality. He’s roughly 10 years older than me and so I’m always learning something from him that I’ll be implementing soon.
What is your best piece of money advice?
Pay yourself first. Automate it and separate it.
He’s an early 50’s retiree who achieved financial independence, shares what’s worked for him, and details how others can implement those successes in their lives. He is also the author of a free ebook titled Three Steps to Financial Independence and spends a lot of his time interviewing millionaires.