I am a total number nerd – so I love to sit down and write this post each year. In January of the past few years, I've compiled all of the numbers (the good, the bad, and the ugly) of how my blogging business performed last year to share with you today! And boy, what a year it was. 🙂
My main goal for 2020 was simply keeping my head above water. Just like everybody else in the world, our lives were turned upside down in March of last year. It's kind of funny looking back…our family had a really busy first few months of 2020. My husband and I were both out of town in separate weekends in January, we went on a Disney Cruise in February, and my brother and sister-in-law got married on March 14th. All of that was combined with what is normally my blog's “busy season” (usually November-March of each year). I told myself through that busy season that, if we could just survive that time, life would slow down and be so much easier after March.
Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it? 😉
We pretty much came home to lockdown after the wedding. My kids were with their grandparents that next week (our spring break), so I spent almost every waking minute completely reworking my social and blog calendar for the next few months. My content is planned out sometimes months in advance; but, in the middle of a global crisis, a lot of that content just didn't work. I was able to completely revamp everything in that few days, and then I really just went into maintenance mode after that (where I've been since then).
After the kids came home, I usually tried to carve out an hour or two each morning to do what had to be done for my business. This was while I juggled virtual learning with a second grader and tried to keep a four-year-old entertained, with a husband that was trying to do his job as a mortgage lender in another part of the house. To say it was exhausting in an understatement. But we survived!
From the get-go, we decided my in-laws would be in our “bubble.” So, after the initial lockdown period was over, my kids started going to their house once a week to give my husband and me time to breathe a little and get some uninterrupted work done. That was crucial; I don't know if we would have made it without those days. I am forever thankful to them!
This lasted until October; my son went back to in-person school at the beginning of the month and my daughter a few weeks later. We are nowhere near “normal” yet (if that even exists anymore), but I feel like we're finally getting back into a groove.
ALL of that to say this – Lamberts Lately did nothing groundbreaking in 2020. I did have one brand new product (launched in February) and several updates/new additions to previous products, but there were no viral posts, huge discoveries, or big new product line launches.
AND THAT'S OK.
I'm thankful this made it through 2020! My small business is not traditional in the sense that I rely on in-person customers, but the economy and the success of other businesses does affect me. When people are hurting financially, my digital and affiliate sales go down. I think my products are incredibly helpful, but I can also be honest and say that, in a pinch, they're one of those things you can cut out of a budget. They aren't absolute essentials, and I get that. I also see cuts when companies pull their ads that are featured on my site. A lot of big advertisers completely pulled their budgets due to uncertainty in March of 2020. I saw my ad revenue get cut in half almost overnight. It has recovered, but it took a long time.
Ok, enough of my rambling – let's take a look at what the actual 2020 numbers looked like for Lamberts Lately!
Affiliate links used in this post. Read more about my link usage policies.
As I've explained before, it's all about the actual blog. Social media is nice and helps promote the blog, but I look at it like a hub with spokes; the blog is the hub, and the spokes (newsletters, social media, share sites) are all spokes to lead back to the hub.
With that being said, let's see how the hub did…
My blog visits and pageviews are up this year – users are up 28% and pageviews up 5%! I attribute a lot of that to people being at home and trying to figure out things around the home. As you'll see in a minute, my most popular posts this year were very diy, home, and cooking-centered. Last year is now my best year ever as far as visits go. Here are past years:
I'm also really happy that my views were much more consistent last year. You can see in most of the past years that there were several days that really spiked each year; those are from posts going viral on something like Facebook. Sure, that's nice (and I'm never going to turn down one of those days), but I'd much rather have consistent traffic than little shots of success.
If the blog is the hub of the business, the most important spoke has to be my email list. It is without a doubt my best way of advertising sales and new posts to engaged readers. Here's how that list growth looks over the past year.
My email list really remains stagnant from year to year if you're just looking at the numbers. If you look at last year's numbers, I finished the year at about 27,000 subscribers; but, in January of last year, I did my annual list clean-out to purge inactive subscribers. This saves me money on email service costs and make sure my list is really engaged with the content.
So, I ended 2019 with roughly 27,000 and ended 2020 with roughly 25,000. However, those readers are the ones that are engaged with my content; I'll gladly take a more engaged 25,000 over 27,000 that's filled with inactive readers! I do this clean-out every year; it'll probably be closer to March/April this year. (I've used Convertkit for my email service and have always loved them. They are a fantastic company!)
Here are my email charts from past years…
See those dips in the charts? Email clean-outs. They are so essential to a healthy email list.
If you've read these reviews in past years, you know that social media just flat out isn't my favorite promo tool. There are bloggers that have tons of success with things like Instagram; it's just not for me.
The constant algorithm and analytics changes can be so frustrating. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard about blogging professionally is to “not build your home on land you don't own,” meaning you don't build a business on someone else's platform. You can't control what that platform shows to someone else; ultimately, the company is there to make money for itself, not for you. That was a huge reason I switched from Blogger to Wordpress a few years ago and is a huge reason I focus on things that I've built.
Instagram will forever be a mystery to me. I've tried sharing, I've tried engaging – it's just not something I enjoy. I'm a fairly private person; I don't love sharing my every move on social media. I feel like that's key when using Instagram as a blogger, and if that's what it takes to succeed there, I'm just not going to succeed there. Not a problem for me! It's had kind of a “slow bleed” this past year – I've lost a few hundred followers, but again, I engage so little there that this isn't surprising.
I do still see limited success driving traffic to the blog through Facebook, so I'll share links and fun posts from other pages there (just not as often as I used to). It's had a little bit of growth in the past year (up from 13.6 to 13.7 thousand followers).
My twitter engagement is almost non-existent as far as blog content now. I really saw very little traffic from Twitter, so it was one of the promo tools I all but cut in the past year. I'll still promote new posts there, but really I just engage with other bloggers and catch up on news over there, sharing the occasional tweet I love.
The one exception to social media success for me is (and always has been) Pinterest. There is no doubt that it's my #1 traffic source. And really, it's not as much a social media tool as it is a search engine. I structure my posts to perform well in Pinterest searches and have seen so much success with that strategy. As far as followers, that's gone up too – I'm up from 33,400 at the end of 2019 to 37,300 as of this publish date.
So, for now, I'll continue to schedule my content (mainly through Tailwind) for Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest and keep a mostly hands-off approach to those. I don't spend hours and hours nursing those accounts because it's simply not an essential tool in my business.
I briefly touched on the lack of new products at the beginning of this post; that was definitely intentional this year. With the lack of time to dedicate to the blog, some things simply had to go. I did launch an updated Year of Intent (in July and again in December) and Journey to Clean (in December), but that was really just to update for the incoming year. I also launched a few new Freezer Meal Boot Camps throughout the year, but again, those were extensions of what was already made.
The online shop continues to function incredibly well for me. It's great to have all of my products together in one place (rather than just selling them all on different blog pages, like I was doing before). I'm so happy I made the switch in 2019!
Now onto the good stuff. 🙂 As always, I don't share specific numbers, and these aren't 100% in stone yet (we'll get final tallies when we do taxes in a couple of months). But, as of right now, I'm figuring about a 4% increase in gross revenue last year, with a whopping 25% increase in net revenue.
Now, one big disclaimer on those numbers – that revenue includes a PPP loan I was able to secure with the first round of funding in May. This blog really is a small business – I pay taxes and am required to keep track of my earnings, and just like most other small businesses, I take hits with things like a pandemic too. The PPP loan is something I really didn't know if I needed at first…my husband was the one that encouraged me to apply for it. I honestly felt kind of guilty getting this with so many businesses directly suffering through the pandemic, but I can now see that my revenue would have been down significantly last year without it. As a matter of fact, there probably would have been a month or two in there that I couldn't pay myself last year without the PPP loan. So, for that, I am so grateful and really glad that I did it.
There's a huge increase in net revenue (gross minus expenses) – that's because I cut a lot of expenses last year to help offset the early drop in gross revenue. I cut ads pretty much across the board, and can now look back and see that as a good decision. They simply weren't paying off, so that was a quick way to reduce cost. I've also been working on pinching pennies with a few of the subscription services (Tailwind, Converbox, Convertkit, and Deadline Funnel, just to name a few) – I've switched those over to yearly subscriptions when possible and have been trying to stay on the least expensive plan that works for my site. So far, so good – and it's saved a little bit of money!
There was definitely a shift in the ways I earn money last year. My ad revenue was up significantly – 58% over 2019. This is my first full year with Adthrive, which has driven my revenue per thousand (called RPM in the industry) way up. I can't recommend them enough. That, combined with a general increase in visitors, means way more money. Shop revenue is down over last year (about 30%), and affiliate sales are down too (about 27%), whereas sponsored content on social media and the blog is up (a whopping 220% – but it was a very small piece of my revenue in 2019, so that's not saying much). I attribute this shift to the pandemic – people just weren't spending as much money, meaning I'm not going to see those sales directly (through my shop) or indirectly (through affiliate links). It is something I want to keep and eye on in 2021 though.
Finally, let's take a look at the most popular blog posts of 2020! Like I mentioned earlier, you can definitely tell through these that people were stuck in their homes and needed a project.
10. 101 Unique Stocking Stuffers for Women – 38,000 views
9. Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake – 40,000 views
7. My Secrets to Cleaning LVP Flooring – 44,000 views
6. 25 Days of a Toddler Christmas – 55,000 views
5. Instant Pot Cheesy Chicken & Rice – 56,000 views
4. 101 Stocking Stuffers for Men – 62,000 views
3. 20 of the Best Household Items from The Dollar Tree – 64,000 views
2. How I Make My Home Look Professionally Cleaned – 101,000 views
- How to Cook Perfect Instant Pot Rice – 231,000 views
There you have it, friends – the good, the bad, and the (plethora of) ugly from the disaster that was 2020. 🙂 I figure that, if we can survive that mess, we can survive anything! Onto what has to be a better year.
(See my previous Years in Review here.)