State of the Blog: 2019 Year in Review

2019 State Of The Blog

2019 was the first full calendar year that I spent as a full-time blogger. It felt good to create my own schedule, travel as I liked, and generally be my own boss! My blog income increased considerably this year, but I’m still pretty far below what my salary was when I worked for a tech company. That’s ok though because I am hopeful that in 2020 I’ll make significant progress.

You may recall that the last time I shared a look at my income was in October for my September 2019 report. I decided to stop sharing monthly reports once I hit my income goals and shift to a yearly review. I hope these reports will provide more insight and show trends that I couldn’t really analyze when I reported monthly.

I started setting clear business goals in April of this year, which really helped me focus on the most important parts of my business. I’m taking a revenue-first approach to my business, meaning if a task doesn’t have a direct return on investment, it gets put aside. This is a strategy I learned several years ago in a webinar run by Rosemarie of The Busy Budgeter. It’s a simple but effective concept: Don’t do things that don’t make you money.

Now, you may say to yourself here: Well, duh I’m already doing that!

But step back for a minute. Are you really? Tasks like answering blog comments or scheduling posts to a social media network that barely brings you traffic are just a few examples of things bloggers do because they feel like they have to, not because these tasks are actually producing a return on investment.

These are the kinds of things I cut out of my day to day in 2019.

I honed in on publishing posts at least 5 times a week, and promoting them consistently on Pinterest. Those two tasks have a direct return on investment. Everything else was pushed to the side and completed as a low-priority.

In 2019, I made huge progress in my long-term Pillar Content project. Pillar content, if you’re not familiar with it, is a strategy to show authority on your website and grow your organic search traffic. For me, this is a massive project that may not even be finished in 2020! But it’s so important to do if you want to take a blog from hobby to business.

That’s my general recap for the year, let’s jump into my 2019 blog income.

My Blogs

As a reminder, I run 5 blogs that are monetized in various ways. I have one home decor blog (started in 2014, my main source of income), one travel blog (started in 2015), and two fashion blogs (started in 2018 and 2019), in addition to the blog you’re reading now which I started in 2017.

Revenue

Comparing this year’s income to last year’s I’m happy that I was able to diversify my income streams. In 2018, over 96% of my blogging income came from just two sources: Mediavine and RewardStyle. I earned money for advertising and affiliate marketing respectively through these companies. In 2019, those two companies were still my highest earners but they only made up 68.2% of my generated income and 79.6% of my paid income.

What do I mean by generated income vs. paid income?

Well, I’ve always shared publicly in my income reports the amount of income I generated each month, not the amount paid out to me. Generated income is money that was earned during the actual month (or year) while paid income is money that actually hit my bank account during that month or year. There is a discrepancy between the two because the income I generate takes anywhere from 2 to 6 months to actually be paid out. Affiliate marketing revenue is particularly fickle in that about 20% of my reported revenue will be revoked due to returns (when a reader returns an item they bought online to the retailer).

Here is how 2019’s generated income looked:

2019 Generated Income

As you can see, I generated over $10,000 in November! That was a long-time goal of mine, and it felt good to finally reach it. Of course, it remains to be see whether I’ll actually be paid out $10,000 in one month this upcoming year. Overall, my 2019 generated income was up 228.55% from 2018.

In the spirit of transparency, this year, I’m going to share my generated and paid income with you guys! The reason why I did not last year is because the amounts were actually very close to each other (only $500 or so off). Here is how my paid income looked for 2019:

2019 Paid Income

Here are the various sources that contributed to my income this past year, broken down by Type and by Company:

Types

I have three types of income for this year. I got my first sponsored post offer in summer of 2019 which opened up a new income stream for me! I finished the year out by doing 5 more sponsored posts. I’ve received payment for 5 out of the 6 so far.

2019 Types

Companies

This is my paid income broken down by company. As you can see, RewardStyle and Mediavine are my biggest sources of earnings.

2019 Companies

Here’s an overview of income from the top 4 companies whose earnings I’d like to grow:

2019 Top Income Sources

You’ll notice that income from all of the affiliate programs go up and down and follow no clear pattern, while my Mediavine income grows steadily throughout the year.

That’s just one reason why I love advertising income from Mediavine. It’s consistent, predictable, and there’s no chance that someone will take it away from me the way that returns are deducted from my affiliate income. My long term goal is to establish reliable income from Mediavine, and treat affiliate marketing income as the cherry on the cake. However, for now, affiliate income is definitely larger, even though it is unstable and unpredictable.

Expenses

I love how few expenses are involved in blogging. My yearly website expenses include renewal of my domain name through Namecheap, monthly hosting with Digital Ocean, and a server management panel called RunCloud. I pay for the professional version of Tailwind to facilitate my Pinterest marketing strategy.

I’m so happy that I finally found an affordable web host that can handle high traffic websites in a professional manner. Digital Ocean is a cloud web host that serves a wide range of clients from app developers to bloggers like me! It is unmanaged, so I had to use RunCloud in order to control my server and monitor it myself. I’m currently paying $10/month to host all my blogs but I think I will upgrade to the $15/month server soon as I’ve been having random spikes of high memory usage lately.

I just switched over in December so I can’t say for certain how good Digital Ocean is, but so far things are running very smoothly! I always found WordPress web hosting to be incredibly expensive. They all say they offer unlimited bandwidth and 99.9% uptime guarantees, but in reality it’s complete BS! Digital Ocean has transparent pricing and clear guidelines for their services. They recommend you start with a small server and scale up as you need to.

A quick disclaimer: I do not recommend Digital Ocean for beginner bloggers. If you are just getting started, go for a host like Bluehost who can hold your hand as you learn about the ins and outs of the backend of your blog. Without my experience learning about databases, FTP connections, and cPanel, I wouldn’t be able to work with Digital Ocean like I am today.

I also pay for an LLC every year in order to deduct travel, office, and content creation expenses related to keeping my blog profitable.

Traffic

Here’s how my home decor blog traffic looked for the year. I was so proud to hit 100,000 pageviews for the first time during the month of November! I couldn’t have done it without the help of Tailwind, my favorite Pinterest scheduling tool that keeps my account consistently active.

2019 Blog Traffic

Here is a bar graph showing my home decor blog’s monthly traffic totals.

2019 Home Decor Blog Traffic

Sources

The majority of my blog traffic came from Google and Pinterest. You can see a breakdown of my web traffic referrals and a graph showing the timeline of my top traffic sources here:

2019 Acquisition

As you can see, I did really well over the holidays. This is because I published a large amount of holiday-focused articles last November and December. This is pretty common when writing about holidays and events. If you don’t publish them early enough, they won’t “take off” until next year. I’m glad I was able to reap the rewards of last year’s work!

Blog Metrics

Here are a few metrics showing my progress for the year:

  • Blog Posts Published: 194
  • Email Subscribers: 356
  • Pinterest Followers: 23,715
  • Instagram Followers: 18,089

Goals for 2020

I’d like to really build out the blogs I currently have under my belt before launching any new projects this year. I do have ideas for more blogs but I am going to hold off on creating them until at least 2021.

If you’re thinking about launching a second blog, know that it is very hard to work on more than one blog at a time when you are a solo entrepreneur. Unless you find a really popular yet underserved niche, I recommend you work only on the blog you have until it is successful before launching a new blog.

I have a lot on my plate in 2020 in order to fulfill all the goals I have for my 5 blogs.

I’d like to reach 100,000 pageviews and beyond on my home decor blog during a non-holiday month (meaning, outside of November and December).

I’d also like to earn at least $10,000 of paid income during at least one month this upcoming year. In November I earned nearly $7,000 so I think this is a realistic goal. It’s going to take a lot of solid effort, though!

2019 Income Reports

I’ll close this report out with a re-cap of my 2019 blog income by month:

I no longer publish monthly income reports but I will post yearly business reviews like this one every January! I hope you found this review interesting. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. If you feel there is something missing in the report, drop me a comment and I’ll try to include it next year!

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I am a female entrepreneur from New York. I have a passion for all things digital and branding, which helped me launch multiple successful blogs in female interest categories like travel and interior design. On this blog, I share the most valuable insights I've learned while running an online business!

5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Great post – super helpful to see some details of your blogging “back-end.” Your previous posts are a lot of what inspired me to launch my own home and garden blog late December!

  2. I have been following your report from 2017. It’s great insight for me on what to expect – thanks! I’m just wondering, you don’t get much traffic from ig?

    1. Hi Steff! 🙂 No, I don’t really focus on IG at all. I’m not saying you should ignore it, but for me it wasn’t the path I wanted to take! Many people earn money from IG but it is too unstable a platform for me. xx

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