On November 7, 2017 this little site called Financial Pilgrimage was born. Time flies when you’re having fun. Or something like that. So how will we celebrate my two year blogiversary? By answering a few questions from the personal finance community.
I didn’t know what to expect when starting this blog and honestly, I still don’t. Some days I feel like I’m really helping people. Other days I feel like I’m writing into the personal finance community echo chamber. Regardless, starting this blog has provided me with a platform to get my thoughts out into the world. So even if nobody ever reads anything I write, the therapeutic process of writing weekly has been worth it.
A big part of the reason I started this blog was to help us stay motivated to pay off the remaining debt on our mortgage. It’s since evolved to trying to help other young families pay off debt and live financially free. As many of you know, paying off debt is boring and can feel like it takes forever. We could all use inspiration to keep putting one foot in front of the other to pay off debt and live financially free.
So anyway, what’s the best way to celebrate a two year blogiversary? How about with a Q&A session with some of my favorite blogger and Twitter friends from the personal finance community? I asked a few people what they’d like to hear about and received really good questions in response.
The Community Q&A Extravaganza
Dollar Revolution Asks: How Has Blogging Changed Your Life? What Big/Overarching Things Have Changed In Your Life Over the Past Two Years?
I’ll start with what has changed in our lives during the past two years. Some changes are related to blogging and others are not. Here’s a brief list of significant changes that have occurred during the past two years:
- Welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world (second child)
- Made the final payment on our mortgage to become completely debt free in August 2018
- Became a single income household after Mrs. FP decided to take a few years off from her teaching job
- Started a new job at work in January 2018 (same company, but different department)
While there have been several life changing events over the past two years, below are three surprises that have come from blogging that were unexpected.
The first surprise is how much blogging has increased satisfaction at my day job. The combination of becoming completely debt free and having this creative outlet have resulted in a significant increase in my happiness at work.
If anything, I thought that blogging could have eventually led me down a different career path. Instead, blogging has helped me fill a personal void that seemed to be missing from my professional life. I’ve been fortunate to work for a great organization for the past 12 years and even though I don’t love the work I do every day, my job pays well, has great benefits, challenges me with interesting problems, has great people, and provides the work/life balance to enjoy my life outside of work.
The second surprise is how much I’ve enjoyed being involved in the online personal finance community. When I started this blog, I had no idea there was a world of money nerds out there just like me. It feels like I’ve found my tribe. The last two years I’ve taken the plunge and attended two FinCon conferences in Orlando and Washington DC. I find myself chatting with online friends often on Twitter and have even joined a few accountability groups related to blogging, fitness, and meditation. I’m excited to have found this great online community.
Finally, I never knew how much time and effort actually goes into building a blog. I have learned all kinds of new skills as a result. When I started this blog I had barely heard of WordPress and knew nothing about search engine optimization (SEO). Along the way, I’ve also learned a little CSS and HTML code, designed pins on Pinterest, explored new software and plug-ins, and much more. It also serves as a creative outlet. There’s so much I still need to learn about blogging and I enjoy the fact that I’m learning new skills and am challenged by trying to grow this blog.
Moriah Joy Asks: What Highs and Lows Have You Experienced?
There haven’t been too many lows along the way. I’ve mentioned before that this blog is currently strictly a hobby. I write when I want to write. I find myself writing pretty often and that could be attributed to not having the pressure to do so. Sure, I would love to have more readers and more engagement, but I’m also proud of the way my site has grown during the past two years. I only put about five hours into my blog every week, so I try to keep realistic expectations. While we want to set big goals, sometimes having low expectations for something that isn’t a top priority in our lives can be a good thing. I just want to keep the site growing, even if that growth is relatively slow.
There have been several highs along the way. A few that come to mind include getting my first Rockstar Finance (RIP) feature after only a few months of blogging (and four total in my first year). At a time when I was getting a few hundred views a MONTH, one Rockstar feature led to more than 1,000 views in a single DAY.
The day we paid off our mortgage was also an exciting time. As noted earlier, this blog has helped keep us accountable to our goals. Without the blog, I’m not sure we’d be sitting here completely debt free. Being able to celebrate this moment with the personal finance community after paying down debt for seven long years was really special.
With all that being said, probably the biggest highs have been things I’ve done outside of this blog. Writing this blog gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone to lead a Financial Peace University class. Leading that class led me to becoming involved at my church in a volunteer role on the accounting team. Through my work, I’ve also had the opportunity to get involved in local classrooms to spread financial literacy through Junior Achievement and Teach Children to Save Day. It’s easy for us to hide behind our computer screens and shout personal finance advice from the hills, and I’m going to try to continue to find opportunities to help people on this blog and outside of it.
Okay, I thought of another low. Pinterest. I am seriously terrible at Pinterest. I’ve joined tribes, group boards, created my own boards, purchased Tailwind, made at least one pin per new post, and more. After putting a decent amount of effort into the platform, I get very little traffic. It has been frustrating but I’m going to stick with it a bit longer. However, once my Tailwind subscription comes to an end I’ll likely stop unless there is a spike in traffic.
Several Other Bloggers Ask: What Are Your Stats?
If you are a blogger and reading this post you may just be here because you’re nosy about traffic. If you’re not a blogger then you couldn’t care less about this section.
My traffic has steadily increased over the past two years. I honestly don’t know if my stats are good, bad, or average. I do know there are many other bloggers who have way more traffic than me.
At the beginning of 2019 I set three goals related to blogging:
- 30,000 annual views
- At least one month with 1,000 SEO views
- 2,500 Twitter followers
These goals seemed quite ambitious at the time. At the end of 2018, I had just over 10,000 total views for the entire year, barely more than 1,000 Twitter followers, and my highest SEO month was 150 views. I’m pleased to say that I’ve already surpassed each of these goals with two months left in the year.
The table below shows my monthly traffic going back to the start of my blog (Nov 2019 is as of Nov 7). As you can see, there has been a nice increase in traffic the past few months. For the past three months I’ve been averaging 6,000 views per month. I know I could increase this total with better marketing and outreach efforts, but I’ve been prioritizing content development in the few hours that I have to spend on my blog every week. Through a little over 10 months in 2019, I have nearly 35,000 views. It would be awesome to get to 50,000 by end of year.
If there is an area where I’m most excited it’s with SEO growth. SEO stands for search engine optimization and it’s the traffic that comes directly from Google searches and other search engines. I don’t necessarily write for SEO because that is boring. However, I do optimize my posts after they are written to try to improve the possibility of ranking in search engines.
During 2018, my SEO views totaled 861. Yes, that’s 861 for the entire year.
This is why at the time, 1,000 views in a single month felt like a huge goal. Achieving 1,000 views in a single month would be more than all of 2018.
In December 2018, when my monthly SEO volume was 150, I decided to make this more of a priority for 2019. I signed up for an SEO course with Blogger U (now Online Impact) at doyouevenblog.com and spent a few weeks improving my site design, increasing load speed, setting up categories properly, and streamling other processes. I’ve also made more of an effort throughout the year to network with other bloggers which resulted in additional backlinks to my site. This was a great learning experience.
The results are really starting to show over the past few months. In September 2019, I met the goal of 1,000 SEO monthly views (1,059).
In October 2019, my SEO numbers nearly doubled to 2,091 views. And though it’s still early in the month, my site is on pace for nearly 3,000 SEO views in November. It’s exciting to see this rapid growth during the past several months. At this pace I’m pumped about what my views will look like for my three year blogiversary.
Last but not least, my goal for Twitter followers was 2,500. As of November 2019, I have 2,855 followers and hope to get to 3,000 by end of year.
Joe Wells Asks: How Did the Progression of Your Following Grow? Was There a Tipping Point?
To think of actually having a following is kind of weird. I’m just here posting the random thoughts and ideas swirling around in my head. It’s always flattering when people seem to enjoy anything on my blog or on Twitter (which is the only social media channel I use regularly).
If there have been tipping points along the way, it’s probably been after attending FinCon. Both times I learned so much and the knowledge and relationships helped propel me forward. I’ve taken time after each FinCon to develop a plan of action to move the blog forward.
What I’ve learned overall is that blogging is a long game. It can be frustrating in your first year when putting content out into the world regularly feeling like nobody is reading. Then while you’re doing that you see some random blogger bragging about having 50,000 monthly views after six months. What we don’t see are all the others struggling just like us. However, if our intentions are good and we are writing about topics that truly interest us then eventually that will shine through and people will notice.
Felix from Fiscal Voyage Asks: How Much Do You Make?
Well I’ll let you down easy right off the bat. I don’t make any money from this blog. At some point that could change but for now I’m enjoying the non-monetary benefits of this blog. In fact, I technically lose money from this hobby.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to monetize a blog as long as the underlying intentions are good. Blogging is a lot of work and people should get paid for providing value into the world.
So what would make me want to try to monetize at some point? Here are a few thoughts.
First, it would have to be worth the effort. Making money means having to report income to the IRS and file taxes. There could also be potential conflicts of interest with my day job that I’d need to run by the legal department. I could probably make a little money on the side from this blog, but at this point it’s not worth the other headaches involved.
Second, I would consider monetizing if I thought the site could scale to help more people. Right now, I spend about five hours per week writing content and doing a little marketing. Everything is done by me and me only. If making a little money would allow me to hire a virtual assistant or two to help scale the blog, thus freeing my time to do other higher value activities, then I would consider it.
Third, if I were ever in a situation to where I really needed the money I would try to monetize. Thankfully I’m at a really good place at my day job and don’t necessarily need the extra money. However, as we all know, we are one bad boss, organizational change, or layoff from being in a bad situation. I feel like this blog is a bit of an insurance policy if I’d ever need to find a different way to make money.
If I got fired tomorrow for doing something stupid (which definitely isn’t out of the realm of possibility), instead of getting a new job I think I’d spend 6-12 months trying to freelance to see if I could make this work on my own. It would be an interesting challenge and hopefully one I don’t have to face soon, but it’s nice to have a potential fallback option.
Financial Freedom Countdown Asks: What Would You Do Differently Looking Back if Starting Now?
The past two years have been a journey. I’m so glad that I eventually hit publish on this blog because I have learned so much and met many great people along the way. It’s hard for me to say that I’d do much different because I had to stumble through the learning process.
If anything, I wish I would have started this blog years ago when we first started paying down debt in 2011. Starting a blog was always in the back of my mind, but I didn’t really feel qualified to write about personal finance. Plus, I had no idea how to actually start a blog.
What I’ve realized is that the most important thing in any endeavor is to just get started. I could have spent months trying to learn all the ins and outs about blogging. However, by hitting publish it thrusted me into this new world and it provided the motivation to go out and learn. Little by little, day after day, I’ve learned more about blogging and personal finance. And while I’ve come a long way, I still feel like an infant in this space just learning to walk. There is still so much to learn.
Modest Millionaires Asks: What Are Your Goals Going Forward?
At the end of each year I try to take a step back and think about what my goals should be for the following year. Right now, my primary goal is to produce quality content regularly and making it to my three year blogiversary.
When I started this blog, I made a commitment to myself. No matter what happened, I would stick with it for three years. After three years if I want to do something different or shut it down, that’s fine, but I would have no expectations of growth or money until getting to that point.
As noted above, last year I did end up setting a few goals related to growth. I’ll do the same for next year, setting even more ambitious goals for 2020. In the back of my mind one goal I’ve had is to get to 25,000 monthly viewers by year three. Up until my recent spike in growth that seemed impossible, but if the site keeps growing at its current trajectory it’s certainly possible.
As far as a few shorter term goals, within the next few weeks I plan to move to a new hosting service (likely Siteground) to try to further improve my site speed. I’d also like to spend some time and money on my site design. That may be a project over the Christmas holidays.
My Most Popular Posts of 2019
Since this is a blogiversary post, I figured an appropriate way to end this is by sharing my most popular posts of 2019. I hope you find it as ironic as I do that my most popular posts actually have little to do with personal finance. Regardless, these posts all share my personal stories. And whether my posts end up getting views or not, that’s what it’s all about.
- What I Learned From Collecting Baseball Cards
- How to Get Hired at Aldi: Tips From a Former Recruiter
- 6 Tips to Make Money from Garage Sale Flipping
- A Young Family’s Roadmap to Building Generational Wealth
- Review of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University
Thanks so much for reading! I greatly appreciate every single person that has visited my blog over the past two years. This has been a great experience and I look forward to many more years of blogging. If you have a blog or have benefited from this or other blogs, I’d love to hear about it 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.