Insights from the First Year of Blogging!

Well, September 15th marks Money Buffalo blog’s first year in the blogosphere. This will be an extended version of my normal monthly “Blog Weigh-In” as I reflect on the various achievements and regrets from the past year!

I must admit that I fell into blogging. I recently wrote about my Golden Handcuffs and how my wife & I made the rather difficult decision to leave a “good” job and pursue a different path in life. When I handed in my notice in August of 2015, blogging was not on my agenda of things to do with my new schedule. It wasn’t until after we had moved back to TN that we heard about blogging.

My wife and I decided to each start a blog and I’ve been writing a post each week since then.

How I Learned To Blog

So I just admitted that I knew absolutely nothing about blogging or web design when I started Money Buffalo. So we signed up for a blogging service called Wealthy Affiliate that has an affiliate income training course, hosting for multiple domains for one flat fee, and an active blogging community to interact with for website comments & advice.

We are still members of WA (Wealthy Affiliate) and plan to be for the foreseeable future. As we currently host 4 domains (2 blogs & 2 business sites) the annual fee of about $300 can’t be beaten. Plus, we liked the structured courses that guide you through the WordPress setup process and how to optimize your website for blogging (in addition to the quality of the hosting service).  Read my full review to for the whole scoop.

One of the determining factors for choosing a hosting service is website reliability. If your website is down, nobody can visit your site and read the awesome content you have written (plus make purchases if you are selling something like we do at No College Debt).

I have had to submit a support ticket three times with WA. To the best of my knowledge, our sites have never been down, but I did have issues with receiving e-mails once & people couldn’t leave comments another time. At one point, I did manage to “break” my website and they quickly restored a backup version to fix my errors (your website is automatically backed up every 24 hours.

Will I Switch Hosting Services?

As I mentioned before, I don’t foresee leaving Wealthy Affiliate anytime soon because we have several websites to host, it’s cost-effective, they are quick & reliable, and I’ve been pleased with the tech support.

Wealthy Affiliate Hosting Details

Same hosting service as many big name companies!

 

If you are just starting out blogging or only have one site to host, I recommend Bluehost. They host the overwhelming majority of blogs (I personally know some non-bloggers that use them), have reliable servers, and you can also buy your domain through them as well.

If (or when) I leave WA, I will transfer to Bluehost because they are very similar to WA, in regards to hosting, but cheaper if you only have one or two sites. It’s the company I have recommended to other family members that do not need the additional services offered by WA as it allows them to save a few dollars but still get a great WordPress website.


A Year in Review

This post marks my 82nd post. When I first started Money Buffalo, I was publishing 3 posts per week. I think that lasted a month or two and it gradually whittled down to 1 post per week.  I look back at some of my first posts & laugh.  It took forever just to come up with 300-500 words.  Now I’m trying to stay below 1500 words and still not ramble…

I reduced the publishing frequency for several reasons:

#1 Writing for our other blogs

In the past year, my wife & I started two other blogs that we no longer contribute to. We quickly realized that blogging can be very time-intensive and it was best to focus on one apiece. These two blogs also focused on very specific niches and it was hard to establish a presence in them & still write for Money Buffalo and No College Debt.

#2 Promote the blog

I quickly realized that time spent writing is less time available to network with other bloggers. Just like in the “real world” networking goes a long way in the virtual world. With only a finite amount of hours each day to blog, I have had more success with since following the 80/20 rule. (80% promoting & 20% writing content).

#3 Focus on active income

With a family to feed and bills to pay, I need to earn a regular income. I mentioned we knew nothing about blogging when we first started, except it wasn’t a “get rich quick” money earning opportunity. Blogging definitely is a full-time hobby. I blog on Money Buffalo as a way to earn passive income. In fact, I just made my first dollar in affiliate income this past month from Money Buffalo. So until those pennies turn into Benjamins, this blog is my hobby (beats being a couch potato!)

 

Highlights of the Year

I am part of the 10%. With 90% of blogs lasting 3 months or less (the time it takes to realize if you can commit to blogging), I couldn’t have pictured this day a year ago and happy to be here.

There are some blogs that started up around the same time as mine and have gained large audiences, etc. & that’s okay. I wish I had more traffic (who doesn’t) but I have made positive gains each month. You get what you invest, & frankly, I haven’t invested as much as others have (plus some are really good writers).

So I’m proud of the connections I have made (so far) and the doors of opportunity Money Buffalo has opened. I also moonlight as a freelance writer & a large reason for the clients I have gotten so far is because of the blog.

I may not be earning passive income (yet) but it is an indirect source of active income. So it’s not 100% a hobby.

Another positive highlight is getting 1,000+ visitors for two consecutive months. With all the personal finance blogs out there, I think this is a good feat. For the latter 6 months, most of the traffic comes from Google searches instead of referrals from other websites I visited. Other experienced bloggers mentioned the “Google bump” when Google will start to give you more preference around the 6-month mark and that held true for Money Buffalo.

Regrets

There are several actions I wish I had done that I want to improve on in the future.

#1: E-mail list

I haven’t really promoted an e-mail list with Money Buffalo. Other bloggers have shared the same lamentations. And I heard this from day 2 or 3 on Wealthy Affiliate. I can also attest to the fact from one of our business websites that has a small e-mail list. E-mail is still one of the best ways to reach people and develop a personal connection.  Pat Flynn recently sent an e-mail title “Email the Smart Way.”  Perhaps I should take a few minutes to see what he suggest in 2016/2017 on this topic.

#2: Networking

I still need to do more networking but it takes time & other bloggers have lives outside of their homepage as well. My list of visiting blogs has shrunk in the past few months with building a house and making lesson plans with a new curriculum. I can find something to do for every waking minute of the week, whethet it’s work, blogging, or family time and rarely have time to watch tv or a movie.

#3: Publish More Frequently

I have been wanting to publish twice per week. But I have too many irons in the fire with everything else. One article per week is still good, but two quality articles mean more opportunities for new people to visit Money Buffalo and for regular visitors to return!

I don’t see this changing anytime soon unless I have a slow week with freelance writing. But, I usually use that spare time to write something for No College Debt.

#4: Take More Blogging Courses

Even though I think WA is a solid resource, I still follow one or two other blogging “experts” to see if all the ideas mesh. I don’t have the time (or disposable income) for too much additional education. One of my goals for the next year is to sign-up for the “Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course” from Michelle at Making Sense of Sense.

I have heard nothing but positive from other bloggers & my curiosity is piqued. But, I currently do not have the time right now to go through the course. So it’s on the backburner until I can make time (i.e. spend less time chasing active income…irony at it’s finest!).


The Previous Month

Normally I do this portion first but have reserved it for the latter portion of the post. I’m writing this on our way to the beach for the week so it will be somewhat abbreviated. Basically, it will include traffic stats, monthly goals, and the blockbuster articles that were published since the last monthly weigh-in.

Google Analytics

Money Buffalo Blog

Two months in a row with 1,000+ sessions!

There was a noticeable influx of traffic in late August for two days.  My average session duration was pretty high so they were credible visits that came from Google Searches for one of the pages that rank on page 1.  Hoping to continue to have some more of these days soon!

Last Month’s Posts

In case you missed any posts from last month, here they are:

My Golden Handcuffs Story
Why I left my “good” corporate paying job to build a house & settle down.

What I Learn From Britney Spears & Pop Culture

The media made a big deal of Britney Spears making her “third comeback.”  My take on how you can learn something about personal finance from Britney.
P.S. I discovered from one of the comments that she has released several albums since her second comeback, so she never really left (it’s just that the limelight is fixated on the Kardashians).

Our House: DIY Kitchen Cabinets & Butcher Block Countertop

We have finally moved into our house and I will be writing a small series of posts on how we saved money but still got a good quality house in the process.  This post focuses on how we refinished some kitchen cabinets & caring for a butcher block countertop that we purchased.

BONUS Reading Material:  Since this is the one-year anniversary of Money Buffalo.  I have included links to the following:

  • First post
  • How I came up with the name Money Buffalo
  • And the 6-month blogging weigh-in.

Last Month’s Goals

Let’s see how I did last month with the goals I set:

Goal #1: Publish 1 Post Per Week–Done

Goal #2: Continue to update old blogs–Sorta
This is an ongoing task, I mostly updated some old blogs by getting rid of dead links that no longer work or deactivated affiliate programs (two programs closed down this month).

Goal #3: Update Social Media Plugin—Not Accomplished

This is the second month in the row I had this on & it didn’t get done.  I have decided that I am going to swap my current plugin (Social Media Feather) for SumoMe.   I’m also looking at signing up for an additional one such as HootSuite.  I plan to start making these changes when I return from vacation & get caught up at school from what I missed.

Current Goals

Goal #1: Write 1 Post Per Week

I finish this post from the hotel on vacation (more details next week!)

Goal #2: E-mail each week

I have continually lamented about my e-mail list and not using it.  So I plan to use it for announcements  of new posts published.  It’s a very small list (but there is more than just my family members on it, so there is some reach).

Goal #3: Change Plugins

See previous month’s goals for  the explanation.  But change is coming soon.  Now that the building projects are completed, I’m running out of excuses.

Summary

If you have made it this far, thanks (& congrats for hacking thru this dense message).  I’m thankful for anybody who comes here routinely (or the first time).

Josh

How did you celebrate (or how do you plan to celebrate) your first year blogging?  What was your biggest lesson learned from blogging so far?

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