A little over a year ago I decided to start a blog. A personal finance blog. What an original idea, I thought. Little did I know there were already thousands of other personal finance blogs out there. Regardless, here I am today still moving forward and on the verge of my one year blogiversary.
Financial Pilgrimage was born on November 7, 2017. For weeks I thought about the perfect name for this blog. In my quest to find the perfect blog name I tried dozens of different names that included the word “journey”. Most of the domains were already taken.
Step away, try again, repeat. This went on for days.
Then I thought, what is that thing you use to find similar words? A thesaurus! It has been years since using a thesaurus.
Adventure, quest, odyssey, expedition, trek, outing, migration, pilgrimage….hmmm, pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage [pil-gruh-mij] – a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion
I liked it but the “act of religious devotion” threw me off a bit. However, the more I thought about it the more if felt right. After nearly 15 years of barely stepping foot in a church, my wife and I recently started to rediscover our faith. We were on a journey, both financially and in our faith. After sleeping on it for a night the decision was made to purchase the domain, financialpilgrimage.com.
One Year of Blogging
A few months before starting my blog I came across a quote. I can’t remember who it was from, but it was along the lines of “start building your audience three years before you really need to.” I’m not sure why, but that quote really resonated with me.
For years I had been consuming books, podcasts, and other personal finance related content. It felt like the right time to start producing content myself.
I didn’t know anything about website design, search engine optimization (SEO), digital marketing, or anything else related to blogging.
I started anyway. Even with a full-time job, family, and other obligations.
Blogging has been humbling. Coming up on a year, it still feels like most of what I write falls on deaf ears. There are only a certain number of hours per week that I can dedicate to this blog and have struggled at times to find where to best spend my time.
At first my time was dedicated to building my site. Then I started focusing on marketing and the community. During the last few months I’ve focused the majority of my time on content. All approaches have pros and cons though I feel like focusing on developing content is the best thing for me to be doing today.
With a wife and kids, a more than 40 hour per week job, and many other activities I’m only able to dedicate five to ten hours per week to this blog. I wish there was more time. Right now the blog isn’t a higher priority than my day job or family time, so if I want to sleep I’m giving it all the time I can. It usually takes me about five hours to write a post and publish. Therefore, my main focus has been producing content over marketing or improving my site.
I Still Don’t Have a Clue
Last week I republished an article for the first time. Even after a year of blogging I had to google “what’s the difference between updating and republishing a post”.
My thinking was that I’d tweak a few things and republish. As I went through to update the post, I was astonished at how poorly written it was. In some ways I was embarrassed, but in other ways it made me proud for how much my writing has improved. It can be difficult to feel like you’re making progress week to week, but looking over longer periods of time real progress can be seen.
During the past year I’ve learned how to optimize posts for SEO, modify my blog theme with CSS code, create pins for Pinterest, and build a small following on social media. With that being said, there is still so much to learn. I can’t tell you how many different email forms I’ve tried on my site, attempting to find the balance of noticeable but not intrusive. The reality is I still don’t really have a clue, but I’m doing my best to put one foot in front of the other.
After attending FinCon in September, I’ve been thinking about why I started a blog in the first place. The initial reason for starting this blog was to get all the ideas in my head out into the world and document our family’s journey to financial independence. As my site has evolved, I’ve realized that my true goal is to help others. More specifically, to help young families to pay down debt and live financially free.
You’ll notice this site is free of ads or affiliates. This blog is not about money; at least not right now. However, getting deeper into blogging has left me intrigued about the business side.
While making money isn’t the focus right now, growing my reach is a priority. How can I help young families pay down debt and live financially free if nobody reads my site? The first step is growing readers, the second is engaging readers, and the third is to help my readers make meaningful life-changing decisions with money.
My goal in year one of blogging was simple: stick with it. During the next few months, I’ll decide what my goals should be for 2019. I also plan to set a budget for 2019 to invest some money into my blog. This year the only money I’ve spent has been on my domain, WordPress account, and attending FinCon. Next year my spending may include a few courses and automation tools.
Year One Blogging Results
Honestly, I have no idea if my results through year one are good, bad, or average. Comparing myself to other similar blogs isn’t really helpful, so I’ve focused on trying to get a little bit better every month.
There are individuals who have gotten hundreds of thousands of views in their first year of blogging, and I’m sitting here pretty happy with my 11,000 views. Many of those views have come from features on Rockstar Finance, the Financial Diet, and other smaller curation sites. The fact that any site would feature something I wrote is humbling. That alone has been a huge success for me in year one.
In addition to focusing my limited blogging time to creating content, I’ve also focused on driving traffic through SEO and Pinterest. The results aren’t there yet, but I’m trying to be consistent.
In my first year of blogging I’ve had about 11,000 views on my site. I know that some bloggers get 11,000 or more views in a single day. Regardless, I’m proud of the upward trend. The large spikes in April and June were due to Rockstar Finance features.
Below is the list of referrers in 2018. I went from averaging about 500 views in months without a feature to about 1,000 over the past three months. I’ve also received 377 comments (assume about half are from me) since inception, indicating that many of the readers are engaged with the content.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If there’s one area where there’s been steady but slow growth, it’s with SEO. A few days ago I had my first double digit SEO day. It was more exciting than expected. With each post I’m trying to do better keyword research and optimize my posts for SEO.
Most of what I’ve learned about SEO came from Grant at millennialmoney.com. I don’t know Grant personally and have barely interacted with him online. However, in November 2016 he created a post on the Rockstar Finance forums titled “Free SEO Help for Bloggers”. If you have access to the private blogging forums on Rockstar Finance, a quick search should turn up this thread. If you can’t find it, shoot me a note using the “Ask a Question” feature above and I’ll help you find it.
While Grant did not review my site specifically, he did review the sites of dozens of other bloggers. That thread alone allowed me to go from knowing nothing about SEO to at least having a clue. I’m convinced that thread was more useful than any SEO course I could have purchased.
As a thank you to Grant, the least I can do is make a quick plug for his new book coming out next year. Check out Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You’ll Ever Need.
Anyway, my SEO growth is slow and the views are not many, but at least we’re headed in the right direction. I’ve had a total of 564 views from SEO with 63% coming in the past three months.
I’ll keep this short since I’ve barely seen any traffic from Pinterest. During the past two or three months I’ve been pinning somewhat regularly on Pinterest. Thus far, all of my pinning has been manual and I actively post on about 10 personal and group boards.
The challenge with Pinterest is the search algorithm seems to change often. Group boards used to be all the rage to drive traffic, but they don’t appear to be as successful as in the past. In general, finding the right strategy on Pinterest has been really confusing to me.
This is an area where I’m hoping consistency will lead to results down the line. This may be an area where I invest money next year in Pinterest courses and/or Tailwind in an attempt to generate traffic. If anyone has suggestions on a great course, please let me know in the comments.
My social media presence has only included Twitter (assuming you don’t consider Pinterest social media). Twitter is a great place to develop relationships with others, although it isn’t especially helpful at driving traffic to this site.
I have stayed off Facebook and Instagram mostly due to this being an anonymous blog. I know that Facebook ads and groups can be powerful for traffic generators and community builders, though being anonymous presents barriers to using Facebook.
As of now I have nearly 1,400 followers on Twitter. I’m not sure how that translates to growth for my blog. However, it is encouraging that there seems to be a regular stream of followers, especially more recently. Same as with traffic to my site, I’m trying to grow my twitter following slowly. There are tricks to getting followers faster (following then unfollowing) but I’d rather have followers who genuinely want to follow my account.
Most Popular Posts
Below are my most popular posts by views. What I’ve found is my most successful posts have been a balance of sharing a very personal story, combined with helpful advice.
- Three Funerals in Eight Days: Why Don’t We Live Life to the Fullest?
- Be Inspired to Leave a Legacy
- How Being a College Athlete Better Prepared Me for the Workforce
- Review of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University
- We Paid off the Mortgage: Our Debt Free Journey
Advice for New Bloggers
- My overall advice for anyone who is thinking about blogging is to just get started. Even if nobody reads what you write for a long time, just keep sharing your story until you find your audience.
- Get involved in your blogging community. Comment on their posts, share on social media, support others, and build a few close relationships. Blogging is tough, though going through it with others makes it easier.
- Find the balance of quality and consistency. Some people may be able to post three times per week and provide quality content. For others (like me), that isn’t realistic. I’ve found that posting once per week is the sweet spot for me.
- Focus on content in your first year of blogging. In a recent podcast, Pete at doyouevenblog.com suggested that new bloggers focus 75 percent of their time on content, with the remaining 25 percent focused on marketing and administration. As someone whose strategy has been all over the place, I agree with this suggestion. After all, your content is also your best marketing.
- Just keep pushing forward. I’ve thought many times about throwing in the towel. Blogging is a lot of hard work and it takes a long time to see progress. However, I’m confident that if I continue to produce quality content on a regular basis this site will make an impact on the lives of others. And that’s what it’s all about for me. I can’t wait to see how this blog helps young families get out of debt and live financially free.
Thank you for reading! If you are a blogger, I’d love to hear about your progress in your first year below in the comments.
Mark is the founder of Financial Pilgrimage, a blog dedicated to helping young families pay down debt and live financially free. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in financial management and a Master’s degree in economics and finance. He is a husband of one and father of two and calls St. Louis, MO, home. He also loves playing in old man baseball leagues, working out, and being anywhere near the water. Mark has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NerdWallet, and the Plutus Awards Showcase.
Stephen theFIRElane.com says
Hey, great wrap up of your first year. I’m glad you had the drive to stick with it for a year! What are your goals for next year?
I’m only 2 months in, but content creation and networking are where I spend my time right now. I hope I can reflect as well as you have at the one year mark.
Great question on goals for next year. I will be thinking about that heading into the end of the year. What I really want to do is make an impact in the lives of others. Truly help a family or many. Just need to put some thought into how that translates to blogging metrics.
It sounds like you are spending your time in the right places. Keep moving forward!
Congrats on your blogiversary. Thanks for an honest look into your first year, and all your real actionable advice. I like this idea you share that it took a moment to realize the purpose of your blog. Sometimes it’s so intimidating to see how other blogs have got it all together and I thank you for the reminder that it can take a moment to get there, but that it’s just important to keep pushing ahead.
Well you can bet that I am far from having it all together! I think a big part of anyone’s first year of blogging is finding a voice. I’m still trying to do that but feel much more focused than when I started.
You are doing a great job with your blog. Like you said, keep pushing ahead!
Amy @ LifeZemplified says
Congrats on one year FP! Your blog shares a birthday with me. 🙂
Two RS features in your first year is huge. I like that you aren’t trying to do more than one post a week. While doing more could get result in more pageviews, I’ve seen it lead far too many to blogger burnout.
Wishing you all the best in your 2nd year and beyond!
Thank you, Amy. Happy early blogiversary to you as well!
Thanks for the encouragement. It has taken a while to find where to spend my time and how often to write, but I feel like I’m in a good place now.
Cheers to another year of blogging for the both of us!
Amy @ LifeZemplified says
Sorry, I meant my birthday…my blog will turn two in February ’19.
Happy almost birthday. 🙂
Chris @ Mindful Explorer says
Congratulations on your first year and what a very detailed and thorough accounting of where you have been and where the blog is going.
Thank you, Chris! This first year has had its share of ups and downs but overall I’m so glad to have started.
Congratulations on your first year. I’m about 6 months in and I appreciate hearing your strategies and the results. It’s an interesting journey, that’s for sure. Best of luck with the year to come.
Thank you, Dale. Congrats to making it to six months. That’s no small feat either. This has for sure been an interesting journey and I’m excited for what next year may bring.
Congrats on one year. I blogged for over two years with only a handful of readers, mostly family and friends. If wasn’t until I started interacting with other bloggers that my readership began growing. I still don’t have huge numbers but I do not use social media at all. While I watch the stats I am not sure how to take them – You can have lots of followers but that doesn’t mean they read your content. You can get lots of views but that doesn’t mean they actually read or liked. I find it most meaningful if someone takes the time to leave a comment. Of course the ultimate compliment is if the share your content with others.
I may not be your target audience but I do enjoy reading your posts when they show up in my WP reader and I am especially drawn to post that relate a personal experience. Keep up the great work!
Thank you, Ruth. I enjoy following your blog as well. Everything you said above is so true which is why I hesitate to put metrics around views or followers. I’d rather have 10 really engaged readers than 1,000 empty views. Still trying to find the right balance. Thank you for the encouragement!
Congrats on sticking with it through the first year! You’ve already passed a milestone that most bloggers never reach! You are now one of the elite few!
I remember my first year of blogging, I was trying to churn out multiple posts per day, working on my site every waking hour after work. It was a ton of work, and quite honestly i don’t think I could do it if I tried these days with 2 kiddos in the house and a day job. It was totally worth it though.
If I could tell myself something back then, it would be just to focus on creating content that adds value. Be aware of what people are searching for help on Google for, and craft content that answers their questions, and fills a need. Think about the things you search for looking for help on – and write about those things – with a personal touch.
Congratulations on a great first year, and here’s to much more SEO success and some big growth in the coming year!
That is really helpful advice. I try to find the balance of writing what’s on my mind vs where there may be a need for helpful information. I’m hoping to continue seeing steady increases in SEO to reach more people with my message. Here’s to many more years of blogging for the both of us!
As someone who is a solid week into blogging, I’m really inspired to hear about your journey. In particular I would be interested to hear what you did to keep yourself going. I know that I am finding this a fun adventure at the moment. But I’m pretty sure that when I don’t have any inspiration on a wet afternoon in February I’m going to wonder why I even bothered starting.
Having said that a lot of what you wrote resonates with me. I don’t fell like I know what I’m doing at the moment but having thought about starting a blog for years one day, to quote Richard Branson I just thought “Screw it, let’s do it.”
Pretty sure that I’m going to fall on my face more than once in this journey, but that’s OK. Learning is a big part of this game and it’s all part of the fun!
Good luck to you for the next year!
Congrats on starting your blog! The journey of a thousand miles starts with a few steps, and those first few steps are the hardest.
You will learn so much. It’s great that you’ve already accepted that there will be failure along the way, because there will. There have been late nights working on my site where I considered just deleting the whole thing.
Your question about motivation is a good one. It’s tough writing and feeling like nobody is reading, especially early on. For me, getting my message out there and helping others is something deep down in my gut. I don’t know where I’ll be in 3 or 4 years, but something deep down tells me this blog will help me get there. I want to help young families get better with money. It’s one of the most important things we can do early in our lives and so many of us (myself included) screw it up. So my advice would be to have a mission that you are passionate about and that will help drive you forward.
Best of luck to you on your blog! I will be following.
Thanks FP! Solid advice right there. I have to say that a small part of me is glad that hardly anyone is reading my early stuff while I find my voice. As you say, if there’s passion there that will keep me going while I fumble my way through.
Agreed! Set a few high level goals and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You’ll do great.
Jon Sharpe says
Well done FP and congrats on hitting the one year milestone! Most bloggers never make it that far. I even picked up a few tips from your article as well! Keep up the good work.
Thanks, Jon! Glad you were able to pick up a few tips.
This hit me at a great time. I enjoy writing, but I frequently question whether it is worth it. I work full time, have a toddler, and my second child was born 1 month ago. Although I get the majority of my work done while they sleep, there’s the constant pull that I can’t free myself from. I know I’d be a more present father if I gave it up, which troubles me.
I’m not attempting to monetize either. My goal was to develop a readership and move from there. I’ve found it difficult to gain traction and community with those within my niche. Finance blogs seem to have endless possibilities to monetize, but I’m having difficulty finding an angle that’s congruent with my mission.
Thanks for sharing your struggles; it’s nice to know I’m not alone.
Congrats on the new baby!
We are totally in the same situation. I often find myself wondering if I would be more present if not for the blog. What has helped is setting boundaries.
Early on I was spending way too much time on my blog. I’ve found for me to have the right balance between a 45ish hour per week job, family with two kids, and everything else I can only give 5-10 hours per week to this blog. When I’ve tried to give more it’s resulted in burnout.
I usually write for an hour or two a few nights a week after 9 pm, and then on Saturday and Sunday mornings before my kids wake up.
You are definitely not alone. Every blogger struggles, especially early on. I’m not sure what my blog will look like in 2 or 3 years, but I feel if I keep putting out decent content on a regular basis eventually people will take notice.
Congrats on your first year! Reddit has been a great traffic source for me. There’s a thread on r/financialindependence where you can share your latest updates each week and you can also share your links to r/financialplanning. You have to be careful on Reddit though, people will roast you.
Thanks for the suggestion! I actually made a post yesterday on Reddit on the r/blogging forum and it has brought a bit of traffic. May trying to get more involved in that community as it seems like many have good advice.
Life For The Better (@LifeForTheBettr) says
Great reflection! It’s awesome to see where you’ve come from and how you want to adapt in the future.
Thank you! It has been a pretty awesome year. So glad I took the plunge to get started.
Little Miss Fire says
WOW I cant believe its a while year already! You should be so proud! I’m slightly envious of your grasp of SEOas I still havent gotten round to actually finding out too much about what it is all about! Here’s to many more years of your blog!
Thank you! And welcome back to you. I had missed seeing your posts pop up in my email.
I still have a long way to go with SEO and all things in general but am proud to have made it a year.
Little Miss Fire says
Maybe I can talk you into doing a guest post on it in the future? 🙂
I would love that. Things are busy now, but let’s chat around Christmas time when I have some time off off work. My email is email@example.com.
Little Miss Fire says
Fab thanks. I’ll email you soon x
Caroline at Costa Rica FIRE says
Congrats on the one-year anniversary! I think 11,000+ views in a year is impressive. There is a lot of content out there, so the fact that people are finding their way to your blog in the thousands is great! It took me years to get those numbers with my first blog, and we’ll see what happens with our newest (which is less than a year old at this point). Remember too that # of views is just one metric, and the metrics that matter depend on what you want. On my first blog, I never got that many views (a few thousand per month) but it was enough to get noticed by media and prospective clients, and for a professional services business, that was very helpful to me. So the blog did what I started it for — it helped me brand my consulting business and provide some educational marketing to my audience.
The Smart FI says
Congratulations on your 1st year. Here’s to many more. You have some great information in this post. It is really a super great, down to earth, how to blog post. I think all bloggers struggle with these issues of time suck and commitment. I have never said this anywhere, but two times I have almost thrown in the towl. I always come back because writing is an artful outlet. I am definately going to check out the SEO post on RS you refrenced. My SEO game is weak. Thank you FP for this post.
Thank you! Same to you on the many more years of blogging. It really has been a great creative outlet for me as well. Regardless of my stats, it’s allowed me to learn so much, interact with great people, and push myself in areas where I don’t have much expertise. Whenever I think about throwing in the towel I always come back to the why and it helps me to keep on going. Thanks again!
Baby Boomer Super Saver says
Congratulations on your one year blogiversary, and for getting featured in Rockstar Finance! You are doing great!
Like you, I find it challenging to fit in blogging with all my other responsibilities, but I really enjoy it, so I plan to continue. Plus, the feedback from readers has been gratifying & the friendships made within the PF blogisphere mean a lot to me!
My biggest take-away after a year of blogging is that I need publish content more consistently in order to grow. I did get an honorable mention (included in the email to subscribers) on Rockstar Finance, and had a featured post on Women Who Money, so that was a thrill for me!
I like that you are mindful of life balance as a blogger. Keep working at it!
Thanks for the kind words. Publishing consistently while keeping the content high quality is such a challenge. Especially for those of us with limited time. Beginning in the new year I’m going to try to write for 30 minutes before work every day. I’m not a morning person so it will be tough, but my evenings are becoming increasingly busy and it’s tough to find time. I figure I have about 5 to 10 hours per week to dedicate to my blog so I have to be smart about it.
Congrats on the features you’ve had! I enjoy your content and will continue to be a regular reader.
Chris Roane says
This post is encouraging to me. I’m a new reader to your blog, and I launched my blog in December of last year. The content of your posts really hit home with me, and you are an inspiration to me. Keep up the great work!
11,000 views is a solid number. The advise to focus on content at first has helped me not feel as guilty about not marketing my new blog as much as I’ve heard some people talk about (I keep on hearing we need to spend 75% of our time marketing). If we don’t have great content, or don’t have as good of content as we could have, what is the point?
Thanks so much! I’m not the best person to give advice as there are far more successful bloggers than me, but I believe that content is king. Once you have a decent amount of good content then you can hit the marketing aspect hard. I am terrible at marketing so I’m definitely a work in progress.
If there’s anything I can do to help as you get started out let me know. I have a lot to learn as well, but I’m happy to share any lessons learned that I’ve had along the way.
Thanks for sharing! I am less than 3 months into blogging and this has been really helpful. Congrats on a successful first year!
Keep on pushing forward! It takes a while to gain some traction. Its exciting to see growth if you stay consistent. Thanks for commenting!
I felt a sense of calm as I read this post. I’m in the process of launching a blog and feel so overwhelmed at times. Maybe I’ll take your advice and focus on content 75% of the time. It’s been so easy to get distracted by all the other things that are part of blogging!
Definitely focus on content early and accept that it’s going to be a while before you start seeing organic traffic. Once you’ve been posting for months or even years you’ll have lots of content out there.
I seriously knew nothing about blogging when I started this site in Nov 2017. Just by being consistent and engaged you’ll learn so much. Make a commitment to yourself that you’ll stick with this for at least 3 years because blogging rewards people who stick with it.
I love your blog name, by the way. 🙂
Thanks for the article. I found your experience to be very close to mine in the month that I have been blogging. I too and running an ad-free blog just hoping to help people achieve the peace and freedom that I enjoy as a result of some pretty small financial decisions I started making as I started my career in 2000. I actually thought that if I started writing my story and ideas, people would read it. Of course they didn’t until I found my way to Twitter, and like you, discovered that there are thousands of other personal finance bloggers out there.
I’m glad its working out for you and that traffic is increasing. Your example gives me hope that they will come.
It just takes time. To give some perspective, I had less than 150 views in each of my first two months of blogging. This past month (March 2019) I had almost 3,000. I believe that blogging rewards writers who are consistent and can outlast others. My goal is 25,000 monthly views by my third year of blogging. Not sure if I’ll get there or not, but as long as I continue to see progress I’ll continue to stick with it.
Well, I guess my first month numbers are pretty normal. I do feel like all my traffic came by spending way too much time on Twitter. I think I have 2 views from search engines at this point.
I was really interested in the Rockstar Forums free SEO help for bloggers that you mentioned. I searched for that, but could not find it. What am I missing?
Sent you a private message on Twitter. Thanks for the comment!
Financial Freedom Countdown says
Congratulations on the one year anniversary. I just started a month ago so this gives me hope. Do you mind sending me the link to
The SEO article mentioned cause I need to start working on it.
Also for a new anonymous blogger what are the pros and cons of attending FinCon?
Shoot me a message on twitter and I’ll help you find the article I mentioned. @financialplgrm
As for the pros and cons of going to FinCon anonymously. The biggest pro is that you can meet some great people and show people who you are behind the avatar. The cons are you’ll have to make extra effort to let people know who you are since they won’t recognize you. Also, depending on the reasons for being anonymous it increases the likelihood of being exposed. I’d still highly recommend it!