Happy blogaversary to me! GovernmentWorkerFi.com turned 1 this past week. I always like reading year-in-review posts, so I thought I’d write my own.
My own spin on a blogaversary post
Blogaversary posts often share
- The number of visitors/pageviews
- The source of the traffic (organic search/direct/social/referral)
- Other cool blog metrics
I want to take a different approach. Mostly because when I see other people’s blog traffic, I have flashbacks to the high school gym shower. i.e. “Dear God, why is mine so small”.
Instead, I decided I’ll share a more personal story about what starting the blog was like. I also thought it’d be funny to share the number of times I “quit”. I guess technically I didn’t quit, since my website never went offline and I’m writing this post. But I mentally quit multiple times. And finally, I’ll share why I decided to start blogging again.
I wanted to start a personal finance/financial independence blog for federal employees. I couldn’t relate to any of the FIRE blogs I read since government employees have such a different benefit/incentive structure than private employees.
So, I found a website about how to start a blog. (Thanks Pete). I then clicked through the website’s affiliate link to start a Bluehost website and had my first post up 48 hours later. (Please do not read my first post. It is a dumpster fire.)
In short, I had no plan. I later learned that my friends the Fioneers spent weeks coming up with their blog name and domain name. And CashForTacos had purchased their domain, joined Twitter and spent 4 months planning the launch of their brand.
I on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered to figure out my nom de plume before launching my blog (I started using “Mr. FIG” (an acronym) before switching over to GovWorker, although a lot of people on Twitter call me GWFI. (If you’re reading this and you interact with me, please just call me GovWorker.)
Instead of taking time coming up with the perfect blog/brand, I just focused all of my energy into writing. I thought after I had produced some copy I could figure out everything else as I went along. On one hand, I’m glad that I jumped in with both feet and only focused on things I could control (writing). On the other hand, a little bit of refining my plan would have gone a long way.
Shortly after starting my blog, I joined Twitter. This was a good decision and a bad decision. It was good because I met and interacted with a lot of amazing other bloggers who I now consider my friends. It was bad because I went from writing 2 posts a week to one posts a week because I wasted so much time scrolling through my feed. OMG. Twitter is a drug.
Twitter also had a large influence on my blog traffic in the first few months. Most of the hits to my blog from February-June were from social media clicks. My blogger friends read my articles and shared my articles in their feeds.
The biggest spike in my blog traffic came from when my Twitter friend Spontaneous Planner, shared one of my posts on the ChooseFI Facebook Group for federal employees that resulted in a giant traffic surge. (I am purposefully not on Facebook. however, if I were serious about commercializing this blog, I should get off my Facebook ethical and promote my stories like crazy in that group.
Downside of Twitter
Twitter also lead me to wanting to quit blogging for the first time because I got caught up in comparing myself to other bloggers.
After one of my friends was gushing about their traffic boost from being featured on Rockstar Finance (RIP) I got so frustrated I decided to quit blogging and deactivate my Twitter account. (I understand that is completely dumb and petty and makes me seem like a little person. But it’s how I felt). In actuality, I was having a hard time keeping up with biweekly posting. I was also frustrated by my lack of ability to make the website look good or have any traffic. My friend’s Rockstar feature underscored my negative self talk and insecurities about my own blog.
Blogaversary recap of times I wanted to quit
As promised- here are all of the times I temporarily quit the blog.
I already detailed the time I quit out of jealously.
A couple of months later (in April) I quit because blogging was too much work. All of my blogger friends were talking about their “Pinterest game” and bringing in traffic through Pinterest. I have never used Pinterest and I mentally shut down in real life anytime somebody starts a sentence with, “I saw the coolest thing on Pinterest…”
But since everyone else was Pinteresting their blog shit, I thought I needed to too. I hated creating “pins” for my blog posts. Although I worked hard to create and post “pins”, I never got a single referal through Pinterest. At this point I should have evaluated my mistakes, i.e. (1) I was doing something just because everyone else was doing it (2) I had no interest in Pinterest. Instead I extrapolated my hatred of Pinterest to blogging. Since I was not good at Pinterest, then blogging must not be for me.
I really wish I would have evaluated what was truly going on. If I had, I would have went back to what I wanted to do when I started my blog– write a lot of copy!!
Why there almost wasn’t a blogaversary post
Pinterest destroyed my will to blog in May. In June I received several guest posts and wrote 2 more pieces that I really enjoyed- a birthday reflection and a Father’s Day reflection. By the end of July I had no more posts and no more energy.
I stopped writing. I stopped checking my blog. And I even stopped responding to comments. I mentally declared that my blog experiment failed and I had no interest in it any more.
Not dead yet…
In December, I logged back into my blog so that I could cancel the automatic renewal before I inadvertently paid for a second year’s worth of hosting fees. I noticed that somehow I had a lot more web traffic than before I quit.
It turns out that my search engine rankings for pages about federal retirement, and especially the thrift savings plan became ranked highly on Google. I was now getting a steady number of visitors a day who had questions about federal retirement benefits.
Seeing that traffic reminded me why I started my blog– to help people make good decisions about federal retirement benefits. This changed my mindset. I didn’t need to do what all of the other bloggers were doing. I could just write for the federal employees who organically find my site.
Furthermore, my Adsense revenue had grown in my absence. I had forgotten that one of the last things I did before I shut down my blog was to put Adense Ads on it. It turns out that the revenue I was making from Adsense was close to covering my hosting fees. So while this blog doesn’t make money for me, it’s at least not losing a lot of money.
What I hope to write on my second blogaversary
Every blogger I know writes about goals. I think this is because it’s super easy to write a post about your goals. Although I’m often labeled a conformist, I like to rebel– especially when it comes to blogging. (example: I’m trying to build an online ‘brand’ without using Facebook or Pinterest). But I did want to have a little look into the future in this post.
So here’s what I hope I can write next year.
- In my second year, I wrote at least one good article specifically targeted at federal employees each month.
- In my second year, my blog revenue from Adsense and Amazon Affiliate Links (yes, that’s an affiliate link- see my affiliate policy) covers my hosting fees
- That I meet some of my personal finance blog friends in real life. I’m especially looking at you Midwest friends (ShePicksUpPennies, Emily Guy Birken, and CashForTacos)
- In my second year I made my website look better and finally ditched the default WordPress template.
- I am no longer ashamed of my “about” page. My new about page accurately reflects who I am and who this website is for.
If you’re a GovReader and want to help out, please consider:
- Sharing my posts on social media (especially the ChooseFI Facebook group for federal employees).
- Clicking through my affiliate link before your next Amazon purchase.
- Letting me know what specific questions you have about federal employment! I want to write federal employee specific posts but am not sure what interests readers the most.