Monthly Revenue: $8,000 to $10,000
Monthly Pageviews: 300,000+
Carly blogs about anxiety, motherhood and decluttering at Mommy On Purpose, which she started in 2016. Note: the earnings from her income report are completely generated from ads/affiliate marketing related to her mom blog. The income reports don’t include the proceeds from her courses for bloggers.
- February of 2016: Started blogging. “I’d never even really heard of blogging before, so it was very new to me.”
- June 2016: “I made $0.14, and that was very very encouraging.”
- September 2016: “I made, I want to say, $400-$500 and that was when it felt like it could be a real thing. I always believed it would work. But I didn’t think it would happen that quickly.”
- December 2016: “I was earning $4,000 a month consistently.”
- Dec 2017: “I was consistently earning $5,000 throughout the entire year. I was getting about 200,000 monthly pageviews.”
- 2018: “I earned between $8,000 and $10,000 dollars. My page views were more like 300,000 per month.”
- May 2019: “So far, I’ve been consistently earning between $8,000 to $10,000. I’m pretty happy with that even though I’ve plateaued. That’s more money than I’ve made at my previous jobs.”
How did you decide which topics to focus on in your blog?
When I started, I had a really broad blog where I talk about all sorts of subjects.
I had a lot of posts about keeping your house clean when you’re overwhelmed by clutter. I wrote a lot about anxiety. Now I also talk about being a new mom and being pregnant and postpartum and I attract readers that want to talk about those things
I actually worked with a psychologist to create a book about anxiety. I was going to sell it really cheaply because I saw the potential to help people. In the end, I didn’t publish it. I didn’t want the liability of entering the health field without being a professional.
I never intended to write about blogging, people were just engaging with that topic. My readers would email me with questions about blogging.
Did your blog have a turning point when it started picking up steam?
After the first quarter of 2017, I started getting pretty stable traffic. It took me another four or five months after that, around the beginning of the second quarter of 2017, when things really picked up for me. That’s when I realized the key to creating a scalable income is to have an engaged audience.
What were the first three to six months of blogging like?
It felt like I was trying to learn a foreign language. Nothing was straight forward. Every little thing that I tried to do seemed so difficult. Everything took me so long. I had to Google step by step instructions and there was a lot of trial and error.
I did buy a course about blogging early on, probably within a couple of weeks of starting. I invested myself in it like it was a college course. When I got home from work, I would watch the videos and I would implement everything the course said to do. And it gave me a lot of structure.
I never thought about quitting because I told myself I wouldn’t consider quitting until the first year was over. Then, I started seeing steady and significant traffic in that ninth or tenth month.
The key for me was, I really figured out how to use Pinterest.
Do you think it’s “too late” to get into blogging in 2019?
I read the other day in some article that if you haven’t started your blog prior to 2017, you probably won’t find any success.
That made me laugh. Because when I started in Jan 2016, Pinterest had just undergone a big algorithm change. And a lot of bloggers lost all their traffic and they bailed. They weren’t able to re-learn Pinterest.
I started after that and people were saying the same things then. I believe it’s the same thing now: a lot of people will tell you that Pinterest is changing and it won’t drive traffic effectively anymore. I don’t think that’s true. You just need to be willing to learn as things change.
Is the only way to make money from blogging, to blog about blogging?
When I started blogging I didn’t know if you could actually make money blogging about things other than “how to blog.”
I think a lot of people get the false opinion that blogging can be an MLM where if you can only make money teaching other people how to blog.
But my mom blog makes $8,000 to $10,000 on its own, without any income from courses or blogging affiliates. It’s monetized half through advertising and half through affiliate marketing. I do very few sponsored posts. It’s really exciting for me to see the affiliate side of it pick up.
Very often, we get stuck in this advertising-only space. Without improving marketing skills, we put ourselves at risk with ad-blockers and algorithm changes. Plus, when our income is only based on advertising, it can be great, but when one thing goes wrong, we can lose significant revenue.
Editor’s Note: Finally got approved by Mediavine and seeing a few hundred dollars in ad revenue? Though it feels amazing at first, many bloggers quickly hit a wall. They feel they need to keep churning out more posts just to sustain the earnings. Carly calls this getting stuck on the content hamster wheel. She noticed how common this is for beginning bloggers and created the Engaging Your Audience course to teach bloggers how to cultivate trust and authority to gain a following instead of eyeballs.
What’s a reasonable timeline for a new blogger to start making thousands of dollars in monthly revenue per month?
A lot of people quit in the first year. I think it’s realistic to expect to see little to no real income in the first year. I managed to make decent money by the end of the first year, but that’s more the exception than the rule.
There was recently a poll taken on a Facebook group for professional bloggers about how long it took before they made money. The majority of bloggers said that it took them one and a half to two years to start making more than coffee money.
That said, if you’re in your third or fourth year in and making $200 to $500 a month, you are doing something wrong. It’s a long game but not a lifetime-long.
Do you think courses about blogging are useful?
I do think there is a place for blogging education. But oftentimes, we buy course thinking they have the secret sauce. They just have ideas and suggestions. You’ve got to take them and implement them in a number of ways until you find a way that works for you or your audience.
The course is a roadmap, but at some point you have to figure something out for yourself.
For example, everyone says, start an email list. But there are so many minute details that will make your email lit successful or not successful. You can take courses but you won’t really figure it out until you send emails and monitor your data to figure out what is working and what is resonating with your audience.
Progress in blogging is a step function. You can feel stuck on a step for months to a year before you figure out the thing that will move you forward again.
Even at this point, I don’t increase my income every month. There are months where I make the same for 3 months all of a student, 25% less.
While I think persistence and perseverance are so important, I would say that equally important is curiosity.
If you take everything you read at face value, you’re never going to question anything on your own. Your growth will be stunted. Everyone I know who is successful, they step back and they ask, why did that work?
Should a blogger’s primary goal be to grow traffic?
So much of our conversation revolves around traffic. But when we want to scale or stabilize income, we have to get away from traffic and start looking at conversions.
When it comes to email opt-ins, why is this converting or why is this not converting. What can I do make this convert this better?
So many people come to the FB group and they say, my opt-in is not converting. People think of their blog as a whole, but this is not 1999 or 2004.
No one is coming to your homepage.
Readers go to a post from Pinterest or Google. They are clicking in the post and very often, something like 80% of your readers are leaving after that post. So we need to work with our opt-in at a post by post basis. What can I offer in this post to get them to opt-in?
If your blog is about sugar-free living and you offer them a workout plan for an opti-in, that might not convert as well as a healthy eating plan. We need to be very specific about why this is or isn’t converting.
Editor’s Note: In her Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers course, Carly focuses on increasing conversion rate, not simply trying to grab more traffic. In her words, “Anyone can stick a link in a blog post. To get that link make money though…”
Do you think bloggers should niche down or cover a wide array of topics?
It might be easier if you have a narrow blog, because the people you are attracting are all interested in one subject.
A lot of people who niche down will say it is crucial. But that leaves out half the journey. A lot of successful bloggers started more broadly and had to work down into their niche. It is not as easy to start a niche as it is to niche down from a broader perspective.
Successful niche bloggers say to niche down because they know what it did for them but I think they forget the importance of the journey. Unless you have a marketing background, you can’t expect to know what you don’t know.
What common mistakes do you see beginner bloggers making?
You Aren’t Solving a Problem
When bloggers write their content, without considering the searchability. By this, I don’t mean SEO. I mean, is your content solving a problem or answering a question. There is content that can be successful that is not solving a problem.
You can have content that is inspiring or entertaining. But to be successful as an inspiring or entertaining blogger is going to take a lot more work than to be a problem-solving blogger.
People aren’t generally searching to be entertained or inspired. If you are creating problem-solving content, you are hedging your bets, and you can branch out, but to see success faster, you need to be meeting search intent.
Spending Too Much Time on Design
Another thing people do is spend far too much time on their blog design and function. When you are first getting started, the only thing you need to do is make sure it is 1) mobile responsive and 2) reader friendly. There’s a place for design but it is not in the first 3 or 4 months.”
Spreading Yourself Too Thin
It’s common to have “shiny object syndrome” and feel like you need to do everything and be everywhere. In the beginning, you should be doing content and promoting on one platform heavily.
Master one platform and build out content to find out what resonates with people. Some people will say, start an email list immediately. I disagree with that. Don’t start an email until you know what people are coming to your blog for.
You Don’t Have a Unique Voice
Don’t be afraid to be different and to say things that are different. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. I think I say a lot of things that are considered controversial, but that’s why I have an engaged readership.
Can you give a primer on how to successfully affiliate marketing?
I would say one of the most important and overlooked things is answering the long-tail keyword pain point questions in blog posts. You need to provide your affiliate products as solutions to those in the form of peoples questions, providing solutions to their problems
I had this epiphany when I was trying to create a video for my blog and I Googled “video making software.” I clicked different posts and I bought from the blog post with the best answer.
I realized that if my blog is coming up in the search results as the answers, then I would make more sales because people are sitting down ready to buy. At face value, this seems simple, but I don’t think we do realize it. We need to be intentional about providing answers to the real questions.
You need to learn how to do good keyword research. I use Keywords Everywhere, which is a free Chrome extension. You also need to know your audience. Ask yourself, what do these people need to know, what is this person looking for when they type in this query?
I promote products that work for me personally. That’s how I know they will work for the audience. It also is far easier to talk about something and sell it if you use it yourself.
I know bloggers don’t love Amazon, but I still love Amazon because people use Amazon. You can promote something on an obscure third party site, but at the end of the day, they’ll go to Amazon.
What’s your approach to email marketing?
When it comes to affiliate marketing in emails, I get a lot of flack for my opinion.
There’s a pretty popular belief that the more emails, the better. Some people think that you need to send a last chance email, and email out three times during a product launch. I believe that less is better.
Respect your audience’s inbox. So if you’ve emailed twice, and they have not bought, then maybe they don’t want the thing.
I take part in launches with a large affiliate marketing company. The majority of the bloggers who promote the product will email their list seven or eight times. I sent three emails in 7 days and I almost always take a spot on the leaderboard.
As you build a relationship with your audience, they’ll appreciate that you don’t badger them. They come to trust your opinion. Honestly, after a time, they will support you if you are providing them value.
When you’re providing value, your audience will tell you. You might not hear it every day, but you’ll hear from them.
In my mom niche, I have a post that ranks on Google about how to pee after you’ve had a baby, and I get emails every few months about it from these random women who say, I just had to email you, I finally peed without crying. If you never hear anything back from your audience, it is a red flag.
What blogging tools are worth investing in?
In the very beginning, you don’t need too many tools is a mistake. That said, I think better hosting is definitely something that should be considered. It’s not a place to skimp.
I stayed on my entry level hosting until I hit 250,000 page views a month. I waited too long, I should’ve moved earlier.
For keyword research, Semrush or Ahrefs are good. You don’t need to subscribe all year. Get Semrush for one month and just pay $100 and look at where you are on page two. That’s low hanging fruit. Work and improve to get to page one. Let your SEMRush lapse, then wait another month, etc.
For me, a good imaging software helps me stand out on Pinterest.
When I’m on Pinterest, I see exactly the same font over and over again with the same Canva stock. If you want to stand out, you have to stand out visually. I’m not saying get the fanciest script font. I’m just saying don’t look exactly like everyone else.
I would also buy good quality stock photos or take your own. I wouldn’t recommend using free images. You can make your blog stand out from other blogs by using unique, high-quality images, instead of bad free images.
I talk about this more in my course, but I also don’t like Tailwinds. I’ve had really good results just manually pinning.
Carly blogs about motherhood at Mommy On Purpose. If you want to learn more about the topics covered in this interview, you can check out her courses Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers and Engaging Your Audience.