Guess what? I made it through 2 years of blogging!!
If you’re a new reader, check out my thoughts on my first blogaversary to find out what the early days were like. (They were rough, in case you were wondering).
I am really excited about my blog. I’m super proud of the progress I have made this past year and have learned so much that I want to share with everyone.
But before talking about where I am today and where I want to go in the future, I wanted to reflect on the year that was.
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Looking back from year 1 to year 2
When I wrote my reflection after 1 year, my goals for year 2 were to:
- Make enough money from the blog to cover my hosting and domain registrations.
- Write at least one “good” post for federal employees each month
- Meet some of my blog friends in real life.
- Get at least 1 referral from Pinterest. (I struggled with Pinterest a lot in my first year of blogging).
- Make my website look “professional”
- Update my about page
Well folks, five out of six ain’t bad.
My AdSense revenues cover my hosting fees and I wrote 16 great posts for federal employees this past year.
However, COVID prevented me from leaving my house from March onward. Therefore, I am sad to report that I still have met 0 of my blog friends IRL. (Although I was *this close* to meeting Penny in late February).
Success = not quitting
But I think the biggest “success” I had this past year was not quitting. In my first year of blogging, I think I quit at least 3 times. I was all set to pull down my domain towards the end of my first year but a friend talked me into keeping it around for another year.
Restarting the blog in January 2020 was a great experience for me. I had a lot of fire in my belly and was weeks ahead on posts.
But then COVID hit.
I found it so hard to write anything at the start of COVID. My routine was all messed up. My normal writing times weren’t available to me. And it felt like the world was falling apart.
So I stopped writing for about 4-5 months.
Let me tell you peeps- if you want to be a successful blogger, don’t quit. Actually, that might be the only secret to building a successful blog.
Even though I have “quit” 4 times in 2 years, I’m still running an adequate website and am growing in so many different ways.
Goals for year 3
Despite taking a blog “sabbatical”, I still managed to meet most of my year 2 goals. Maybe that was because they were too easy.
This year, I set some ambitious goals for myself during a blogging workshop. They scare me. I think that’s a good thing in some ways because it means that I’ll need to grow to get there.
- Get to 10,000 sessions per month by March, 2021
- Get nominated as a finalist for the Plutus Awards in the “Best Traditional Retirement” category
- Develop and stick to an editorial calendar
A note about traffic
I have purposely not shared my traffic numbers in previous posts. When I started blogging and saw people post their blog traffic, it brought back flashbacks of high school swim team (i.e. “Dear God, why is mine so small?”)
In fact, seeing someone post their traffic made me “quit” temporarily in my first few months of blogging.
I think I’m ready to share my traffic numbers because
- Lots of people quit blogging in their first year. People who are discouraged by not getting blog traffic would have quit by now, and their feelings won’t get hurt by my numbers.
- My traffic is still super low.
- When I hated seeing other’s traffic, I felt like traffic was something that was outside of my control. After taking really great SEO courses, I realize that I can control these numbers more than I ever thought was possible.
Now that I got that disclaimer out of the way- we can move on to my goals!
Traffic: Get to 10,000 sessions per month by March 31st
When I wrote this goal in November, I was trying to choose a stretch goal without really thinking hard about it. When I wrote the goal down, I was pumped about reaching 6,000 pageviews in October. Upon further reflection, I realized I had only 4,000 sessions that month.
My goal represented a 2.5x increase in traffic in just over 3 months.
Instead of immediately changing my goal, I decided to embrace it and see what I could do. I still really want to reach 10,000 sessions/month by March and think I can get there if I work hard enough.
Since writing that goal in November, I’m already well on my way. I had 6,000 sessions in the month of December (1/3rd of my way there).
And in the first few days of January (when I am writing this post), I’ve had an average of 250 sessions per day- which puts me on track for about 7700-7800 sessions this month. This is super exciting.
What makes me even more happy is that most of my traffic is from organic search. People are finding my web page through Google which is aligned with my “Why” of the website of helping federal employees.
Plutus Award finalist
Typically, I like to set goals that I have control over. I obviously can’t fully control whether or not I’m nominated for an award.
But I can control the type and quality of content I produce.
Since my blog reboot in August, I’ve been publishing super useful posts for federal employees each week. And of these posts, 7 have been super focused ultimate guides for different aspects of federal retirement. My plan is to continue producing 1-2 epic posts per month.
Simply put, I want to write the best retirement content for federal employees on the internet.
Regardless of whether I am ultimately nominated or not, I want to produce content worthy of being nominated.
Are my goals aligned with my dreams?
Setting SMART goals is easy. Businesses obsess about SMART goals because it is easy to see if you met your goals or not. But I think it is worth asking myself, will achieving the goals I set move me any closer to my dreams (Shoutout to Darcy for helping me think about goals vs. dreams and Raina Willick for helping me verbalize my dreams for this blog).
My dream is to help federal employees trying to navigate “the system”. Being a federal employee has tons of benefits that nobody bothers to tell you about. But it can also be an absolute slog to wade through the bureaucracy.
There are 2.1 million federal employees, not including retirees and other former employees. At some point they’re going to need help.
I want them to find me when they need help.
Not because I want to sell them something. But because I genuinely care about them and want to help them.
Is my blog aligned with my dream?
If you followed my blog for the first 18 months would you know what my blog dream was?
Mistake 1: I was so consumed with seeing what other personal finance bloggers were doing that I wasn’t paying enough attention to building my dream.
Mistake 2: I was also kind of obsessed with monetizing my site at least to the break-even point. Today I keep asking myself why I was so obsessed with that. This website is something I’m passionate about. I want to give back and help people.
I think I was confusing a monetized site with a “legitimate” website. Whatever “legitimate” means.
I don’t need money. And it’s okay to spend money on something I’m passionate about as a hobby and that helps others.
While I’d eventually like to have the blog be self-sustaining monetarily, I don’t need to focus on the money. That’s not saying that I won’t monetize the site with ads and affiliate links. Earning money means that I can invest more money into the blog and help more federal employees. But from here on out I’m not going to focus on monetizing the blog at the expense of helping federal employees.
Year 3 on the blog- living the dream
Thankfully, I am feeling confident in my own shoes as a blogger. I know why I’m blogging and what I want get out of it.
Lately I have been writing super tight SEO’d post to help federal employees. Here is what I want to happen:
- Federal Employee has problem
- Federal Employee Googles problem
- Federal Employee finds my website and is happy because I solved their problem.
This model is aligned with my dream of helping federal employees. However this model is not really a traditional personal finance blog as I think about blogs. Most of my blog friends focus on building their own personal communities and having loyal readers. I tried to be like them for 2 years and was frustrated.
Is it any wonder I was frustrated? I was trying to follow a map that lead somewhere I didn’t want to be.
My existential blog questions
Now that I found the right path for me, I have lots of questions about what I should do with my old content and what I should write about in the future.
- Do I delete old content that isn’t SEO driven? For example, should I delete the post where I talk about how I didn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps?
- Google isn’t sending anyone to these sites and I can tell that my site users don’t care about my old content. These posts appear to not serve any purpose. And others have shown that deleting posts actually increases SEO traffic.
- Do I still write my monthly post about our finances where I share cute anecdotes about our family? These get ridiculously little traffic. (My money well spent post for November 2020 had only 142 pageviews). They don’t help federal employees. Do I have loyal readers that care about this?
- Do I still try to engage with other PF people on Twitter? Even though my number of followers has grown, my engagements and referral traffic from Twitter is at all time lows.
- In April 2019 I probably had 250 followers and had 550 Twitter sessions.
- In December 2020 I had 1,400 followers and only 189 Twitter sessions.
- How many posts should I write in a year?
- I can’t write 52 super sharp SEO’d posts a year. On top of that, I have to optimize older posts that are ranking on Google to keep their spots on the top.
- I like the idea of publishing weekly- but what should my mix of posts be? And if I’m going to delete content that isn’t ranking on Google, why would I write things just to delete them?
I want your thoughts!
Ok. Ironic because I have been thinking about disabling comments on my site.
I feel conflicted about my editorial calendar for 2021. I laid out my goals and my dreams for this website. I want your input!
- If you’re a loyal reader- what do you want to see?
- How often should I post.
- What mix of content?
- If you’re a blogger- what would you do if you were me?
- Is there a reason to share my personal journey?
- Any reason not to nuke old content that doesn’t help SEO?