Ever wondered how to make money online? This post shows details on how a blog makes money in a year, stats on popular posts, and info about running an online blogging business.
(Affiliate links used in this post. Read more about my link usage here.)
Happy New Year, friends! Today, I'm sitting down to write one of the posts I always look forward to. I'm a numbers/analytics kind of person, so summing up how Lamberts Lately did in the past year with lots of statistics is right up my alley. You can see the posts I've done for the past few years here.
Most people think a blogging business is just managing a website. I'm here to tell you that there is so, so much more to blogging than that. I'd estimate that only 20-25% of my work week is made up of actually writing blog posts now. Lots of time is spent creating premium content for my shop, promoting old & current blog posts (through both social media and email), marketing a few products for which I'm an affiliate, general business tasks (like bookkeeping), and site maintenance. There are lots of different facets to my job – that's part of what makes it fun! You can see more about what my typical work week looks like here.
So, today, I'll be breaking down a few of those parts of my business to show you how they've grown (or not grown) over the past year. Let's dive into it!
If you look at my blogging business like a wheel with spokes, the center of that wheel is most definitely this website. It's the basis for everything else; nothing else really exists without it.
So, it all starts with website visits. Here's what my google analytics looked like for the past year (I'm writing this on the night of December 30th, so these might be a smidge lower than the real stats…not really enough to worry about.)
The numbers don't lie – there's been a downturn in pageviews this year. I think that's to be expected, to be honest. So many people are getting information from social media, copy sites (that take my info and save it for users, without having to visit the site), and apps…it can be hard to compete with that. There's also a downturn in hits on my Instant Pot posts – that was a huge trend in blogging a couple of years ago, which helped my numbers, and it's somewhat passed. I'll talk about that a little bit more later on in this post.
You can see past years below…
You can see that visits peaked out around 2017. This is something I think a lot of bloggers are experiencing – you just have to start thinking of ways to combat the downturn. A blogging business doesn't have to be all about having the most visitors; it's what you do with those visitors that matters. Quality over quantity works, without a doubt!
One thing I've done to maximize profit over the past year was to change ad companies. This was a big decision for me – I had been with my previous company almost since starting blogging in 2009. Change can be scary, but it can also be so, so beneficial when you see that something is no longer working.
I went with Adthrive and have been so incredibly pleased with the change. I was able to make my site more user-friendly and double my RPM (a way the industry measures the amount of revenue per visitor). This has given me an opportunity to try more advertising formats and reduced my page load time almost immediately. To say that I'm impressed is an understatement!
If a new blogger asked me what my biggest piece of blogging advice is, without a doubt, I would tell them to start building their email list from day 1. Email is most definitely my #1 marketing tool, whether it's for promoting a new blog post, sharing a sale in my shop, or promoting some of my blogging affiliate opportunities. Nothing else even comes close!
Here's what my email growth looks like for 2019.
I have to explain this chart a little bit every year…it can be a little deceiving. Each spring, I give my email list a good clean-up, removing inactive subscribers. Not only does this improve the open and click rates on my emails tremendously, but it saves me a good bit of money. Email services aren't free; as a matter of fact, that's one of my biggest operating expenses each year. (I've been a Convertkit user for years and absolutely love it. No plans to change anytime soon.) By cleaning out readers that aren't interested in my emails, I'm unclogging their inboxes a little bit and saving some money on my email costs! This saves me hundreds of dollars every year.
So, if you're looking at it with that piece of info, I'm happy with my list growth. Yes, the overall subscriber number is about the same as January – somewhere around 27,000. But the current 27,000 are more interested than the list in January. And yes, I'll be doing another clean-up in the next few months – it's something I like to do on my email list once a year or so.
Looks at the charts from years past…
In some ways I love social media. It's another great way of promoting posts and connecting with readers. But, sometimes, I just want to throw my phone out the window. 😉 Keeping up with changing algorithms and platforms can be downright impossible (and incredibly frustrating).
So, this year, I decided to welcome any new followers and give my social media platforms adequate attention without stressing too much over big growth. I've found that, for the amount of time I could spend on social media growth, it's more beneficial to channel that energy into growing my email list and fine-tuning my blog in areas like SEO and site efficiency. Social media's just simply not my #1 – it is for a lot of bloggers/influencers, but doesn't really translate to my business. And that's ok! I'm totally fine with it just being a supplemental promotion tool, not my go-to.
The biggest mover and shaker in social media this year has been Pinterest. This is by far my biggest social media referrer (giving me about 56% of my traffic) and my following has grown from 22,700 at the end of last year to 33,400 now. I am so glad this is my biggest grower – the more it grows, the more the blog grows!
My Facebook page has seen minimal growth – 13,500 likes this time last year to 13,600 now – but the follows have gone up even more (now up to just over 14,000). Again, it's not an account I push a whole lot. As a matter of fact, I scaled this one back this year, not posting on the weekends. It was a good place to cut – something had to go in my weekly work schedule, and my interactions on weekends are historically low. It also gives me a chance to unplug from work on the weekends.
I adopted a similar posting style on Instagram this year – posting a few times during the week, maybe occasionally on the weekends, and sharing peeks into my day through stories. There has been some growth (up from 11.2k last year to 12.9k now), but a good chunk of that was at the beginning of the year, before Instagram started changing their algorithm pretty drastically. It has stayed pretty stagnant since the spring.
I've started using Tailwind almost exclusively for both Pinterest and Instagram scheduling – this has been a massive time-saver in the social media department. I really recommend it if you're in blogging (or any kind of social media influence, for that matter). It's an easy way to schedule lots of pins at once, or to easily fit an Instagram post into a pre-planned time slot for a future date. It really takes the guess-work out of posts!
The biggest development in the Lamberts Lately universe this year was the opening of Lamberts Lately: The Shop! This is something I've been thinking about doing for a year or two now. I had a lot of different products for sale in a lot of different places – so, this fall, I put them all in one place for easy shopping.
So far the move has been a great one. I have a lot more power in how I handle customer orders, how I can offer checkout and buying options, and ways to market to customers. I am really looking forward to really stretching the shop's legs in 2020 – I think it's got a lot of potential that I haven't tapped into yet.
This year saw the launch of new editions of Journey to Clean and The Year of Intent (which had a mid-year relaunch just a couple of weeks ago), as well as 6 new Freezer Meal Boot Camps. I'm hoping to launch at least that many FMBC packs next year – they continue to be a product that I love developing! I've also got a supplement to Journey to Clean planned for the next couple of months, as well as my regular Year of Intent launch (in July) and J2C launch (in December).
This is what you came here to see, right? 🙂 I don't have the final net numbers in (and won't for a month or two, until we figure out expenses), but by taking a look at gross revenue in 2019 vs 2018, I'm down about 9%. NOW – is that a good thing? Not necessarily, but it's not necessarily a bad thing either. My visits are down almost 20% and my revenue didn't completely follow that – a good thing!
I think one of the big culprits is just a decline in readers purchasing Freezer Meal Boot Camps. Instant Pots were all the rage in 2017 and 2018 – they're still really popular, but I've noticed a pretty steep decline in the hits on my Instant Pot posts in the past 6 months or so (and, in turn, in FMBC pack sales). My Journey to Clean numbers and Year of Intent numbers are pretty similar to years' past – but FMBC sales are down. Which is honestly expected because I don't really put out a new version of those each year like I do for other products, prompting readers to purchase new versions. So I understand the decline, but I would like to think of a few new ways to market those in 2020 to give them new life. They really are great products – they just need the right (new) audience.
Some positives from this year – my ad revenue is way up, even though hits are down! I totally attribute that to my move to Adthrive. I also saw a great turnaround in affiliate revenue towards the end of the year. I mentioned in last year's post that I was concerned about a drop-off of revenue in my stocking stuffer posts last year – I'm happy to report that I think they've turned a corner. My affiliate revenue from the holiday season was up 16% over last year. I'm hoping that trend continues as my Easter basket posts‘ popularity starts firing up in a month or so.
I've not done a great job of seeking out sponsored content in the past couple of years – building my shop became the priority. But I'd really like to dive back into finding great fits for the blog in the next year. Don't worry – that doesn't mean this is going to become one big ad! I'd like to be really choosy about what I decide to promote through the blog, making sure it's truly a great fit before taking on sponsored content.
Top Yearly Posts
Finally, let's look at the most popular Lamberts Lately blogging content of the year! This looks at the top posts (regardless of whether or not they were written this year).
10. How to Refinish a Farmhouse Table – 32,000 visits in 2019
9. The Original Instant Pot Freezer Meal Boot Camp – 35,000 visits in 2019
8. Peanut Butter Cup Earthquake Cake – 36,000 visits in 2019
7. 20 of the Best Items to Buy From Dollar Tree – 38,000 visits in 2019
5. 101 Unique Stocking Stuffers for Women – 43,000 visits in 2019
4. My Secrets to Cleaning Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring – 44,000 visits in 2019
3. 101 Stocking Stuffers for Men – 57,000 views in 2019
2. Instant Pot Easy Cheesy Chicken & Rice – 80,000 visits in 2019
1. How I Make My Home Look Professionally Cleaned (in an hour a day) – 206,000 visits in 2019
And that, my friends, is a (not so) short summary of Lamberts Lately in 2019! There were definitely some ups and downs, some lessons learned from both successes and failures. Next year, I'm really focusing on nurturing the content already on the blog/in the shop and making both posts and products the best they can be. There's been a lot of good content here over 10 years – I'm hoping to give it some new life!
Bring on the new decade!
(You can check out previous blogging years in review here.)