I recently looked at my calendar and realized I started Money with a Purpose just over a year ago. It caused me to pause and think about what I've learned after one year of blogging.
The short answer – A LOT!
I know people who have been blogging for over a decade. I've also met people who started a few months ago. The personal finance blogosphere has new blogs popping up seemingly every day. During the past year, I discovered the place where bloggers hang out – Twitter.
I must say, as a Boomer who's gone into social media kicking and screaming, the last place in the world I thought you'd find me is on Twitter. Yet that's where I spend most of my social media time these days. I've discovered a great group of people (most of them a lot younger than me) who genuinely care about their readers and the large community of bloggers who speak to them.
The financial advice industry, where I've spent my career, is nothing like the community of bloggers I've come to know. I've featured many of them in my best of the week series and a post of my list of the ten most influential bloggers.
What follows is a summary of what I've learned, the struggles, and victories along the way. I'll also introduce you to some more of my favorite bloggers.
Let's get started.
Once I decided to blog, there were SO many tedious decisions to make. Let's start with the name. What would it be? Once that's done, where would I check the domain and purchase it? Godaddy? Bluehost? Some other domain provider? What email would I use? What conflict of interest would this have with my financial planning business?
The next decision was what platform to use? Drupal? Joomla? WordPress.com? WordPress.org? Square Space? Who would host the site? A shared host? Dedicated server? VPN? I had no idea about any of this. Thank goodness for Google, and the many bloggers who've blazed the trail before me.
I finally decided on WordPress.org, the most widely used platform for bloggers (and many other websites for that matter). From there, it was a decision on a theme. Picture the website theme as a template like you'd use in Word or Excel. It's where your content lives and how it will look to the visitor. I had no idea how many choices there were out there? Hundreds, if not thousands. Over the year, I've had at least three different themes. I'm pleased with the one I currently use and have no plans to change.
Plugins and more plugins
Then there are plugin choices. Plugins? What the heck are those? These are the add-ons used for various things, like social sharing buttons, contact forms, text editors, website speed enhancers, a plugin to put tables (spreadsheets) into your posts, sign up forms.
I can't tell you how many different plugins, themes, and vendors I tried over the last year. It was exhausting!
Any newish blogger will relate to what I'm saying. Regular readers likely have no idea. Now you know what goes into a building blog or website before you see the finished product.
In the past, I've always hired someone to do this for me. I was never satisfied with the result.
That's why I decided to do this on my own.
The first posts
My first post was October 5, 2017. It was about protecting your online information. It was a timely post after one of the most significant breaches of security in history at Equifax. Equifax announced it in September 2017. However, they knew about it much earlier. I thought it was a pretty good post.
I had no idea what I would write about or how often. Would it be random? Regularly? If regularly, how often? A couple of times a month? Weekly? Two to three times a week? In my early days, I decided to focus my writing on retirement planning and investing for that purpose. That included Social Security, pensions, IRAs, and many other related topics. I decided to write one post a week. I thought that was something I could handle and it would gradually build up my content and audience. So, off we went.
There was only one problem. No one was reading them. I guess I thought it was going to be a Field of Dreams thing. You remember the movie, right? Kevin Costner had the lead role. He had a vision that he was supposed to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his farm. The field was to be used by players who were no longer. As in gone. Not retired from baseball. But gone, as in passed away gone. The mantra that Kevin's character kept hearing was, “build it and they will come.” And, of course, they did.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen with my blog. I had a couple of readers. My wife and my niece. Beyond that, I had little to no traffic to the site.
I had done some Facebook advertising for webinars and things for my planning business. They worked pretty well. I decided to give that a shot to get traffic to the blog. The idea was that once they were there, I'd overwhelm them so much with my great articles that they'd sign up for my email list.
I got the traffic to the site. As for the email sign-ups, not so much. I poured over the ad analytics, the cost per click, the locations, the ages, interests, etc. I continued tweaking the ads, the articles, and the audience to try and improve. Traffic increased as my budget decreased. Still virtually no email signups. What the heck?
I moved from Facebook to try Google ads. They were more expensive, generated much less traffic and the same results for website signups. Since I'm a slow learner, I kept up the ads game, staying mostly with Facebook, but going back to Google ads when a nice coupon came in my email.
You see, I had visions of getting tons of traffic, running ads on my sites, converting people to financial planning clients, and growing both my blog and planning businesses together. I have to tell you; this period was most frustrating.
Those who know me well know that being patient is not something I do well. Can I get a witness?
After about six months of spinning my wheels, I came across an excellent website for bloggers called Rockstar Finance. Regular readers have heard me talk about Rockstar on several occasions. They have a directory of close to 2,000 bloggers. It's probably over 2000 by now. It's an incredibly helpful resource for bloggers at any stage. I signed up for their blogger forum and began to get acquainted with the larger blogging community.
I signed up for their daily email which offers four featured articles from across their members and four noteworthy posts. They give all bloggers the chance to submit articles for consideration for their featured and noteworthy spots. Featured articles appear on the Rockstar homepage the day they are chosen. Noteworthy articles appear in the email only. It's a huge win either way as the email has close to 10,000 subscribers.
In early July 2018, the article where I told my wife's and my story of an eleven-year struggle dealing with our son's addiction. The web traffic for the next two days exceeded the last 30 days of regular traffic. It was freaking awesome. Did this mean I had arrived? Was my dream of thousands of daily visitors coming true?
I think you know the answer. Traffic did stay stronger than normal for about a week. It gradually tapered off from there. I will say, however, the level of visitors, though lower, was higher than what it was before the feature.
Shortly after the feature article, Rockstar put another of my articles into their noteworthy section a few weeks later. That article asked the question of whether a person's values and money aligned. Though that generated increased traffic for a few days, it was nothing like the feature. It did increase the baseline traffic another notch.
The Money Mix
A new curation site went live a couple of months ago. The Money Mix features new content daily from numerous bloggers. The Daily Jukebox of the top five articles offers readers the chance to vote to see which is the day's favorite. Those are then added to a weekly Jukebox and voted on there. I've had a few of mine make the daily Jukebox.
I've found so many great bloggers and articles.
More importantly, the outpouring of support and stories I heard in response to the addiction article was amazing. We told the story to help people. Addiction is a lonely disease for parents. We knew there were others suffering and isolating just like we did. We wanted them to know they were not alone.
Shortly after posting our story of addiction, I read the story of Deanna, of Ms. Fiology, and her recovery from addiction eight years ago. We connected and talked about interviewing each other. That's how the series started. I interviewed her to get the recovering addict's viewpoint. She interviewed my wife and me for her blog to offer the parent's perspective.
One of the comments on our addiction article came from a fellow blogger who told of growing up abused. Her name is Andrea. She blogs at Saving Joyfully. I encourage you to check out her site. We were already connected via Twitter. She's one of the most generous, giving bloggers I've met. To the person, everyone who's interacted with her feels the same way.
After several conversations about her abuse, she agreed to allow me to interview her and tell her story. She did that publicly for the first time here. Because so many people knew Andrea, the response to her was more than any other post on the site.
The birth of a series
That interview spurred a new category and interview series on the blog called overcoming adversity. You can check out the list of articles and interviews by clicking the title in the previous sentence.
I interviewed Bill, from Wealth Well Done, who was instrumental in encouraging me to tell our story of addiction. He gave me the push I needed to get it out there. Bill spent ten years in prison at the tender age of twenty-one. He used that time in prison to better himself. I was honored to have him share his story with my readers.
I've interviewed someone who overcame a gambling addiction, bullying, a cognitive disability (my pastor), and a learning disability. I talked with someone whose husband got laid off from two jobs in one year after she decided to be a stay at home mom. I talked with an anesthesiologist who got through med school reading at the bottom 5% of all students.
Interviews lined up include a twin who attended an Ivy League school 100% free who struggled with being one of the few kids who grew up poor. You'll also hear from a guy who battled depression at an early age.
It's not something that was part of the plan for the blog in the beginning. These articles are, however, some of the most read articles on the site.
Money with a Purpose's goal is still to offer knowledge to help you align your money with your life. That has not and will not change. What's difficult for all of us in the personal finance blogging space is to provide unique content. The road to financial independence is not a complicated one. The GPS to get there is simple: spend less than you make, save and invest the difference, reduce or eliminate debt. Repeat.
What makes each blogger unique is their story and their journey toward financial independence. Some have higher incomes. Others' incomes are lower. Some live in high cost of living area. Others live in lower cost of living areas. Some are married. Others are single. Some have kids. Others don't. Some are single parents.
One thing that has impressed me the most about the blogging community is its ethnic diversity. Honestly, when I attended the FinCon conference in September, I expected to see a bunch of white males from the tech industry. That's the picture the mainstream media likes to paint. That is not the picture I saw in Orlando. It was refreshing to see so many shapes, sizes, and colors in the group.
I'm currently publishing three articles a week and a weekly roundup of the best articles I read during that week. My current schedule has an overcoming adversity interview every Monday, and a post on Wednesday and Friday. Most of them I will write. I'll also have guest writers featured from time to time as well.
My wife, Cathy, has begun to contribute articles to the blog. In fact, the latest one she authored on how to drastically cut expenses, is in the top two most read articles on the site. I'm encouraging her to contribute even more. She's on Twitter as Mama Lemon @mammlemon. She's a master at budgeting and handles the details of our finances.
I've mentioned the great bloggers I've met over the year since starting the blog. I want to introduce you to some of them and encourage you to check out their sites. These are writers I regularly read and stay in touch with. Some of us are in a private blogging group together. We share our thoughts, ideas, and best practices. Also, we share our struggles with blogging. Most read and share each other's content on social media. We support and help each other be better at what we do and more successful, realizing that each of us defines that differently.
With that, meet some of my blogger BFFs:
Some of my blogger BFFs
The Three Year Experiment
The Finance Twins
The Rich Miser
Seller At Heart
Money Saved Is Money Earned
Personal Finance for Beginners
Every Day by the Lake
Wealth Well Done
I'm told there are in the neighborhood of seventy bloggers who are physicians. Their content, though, geared toward physicians and the issues unique to their profession, are applicable to most any one of us.
These are folks I know and interact with on a regular basis. They are all great writers. They all have a unique voice. I encourage you to take some time to get to know them. You'll be glad you did.
And thank you so much for the great support during my first year. There were lots of growing pains. There was also a lot of growth, both in me and the blog.
I look forward to many more years together. If you like what you read and see here, please pass along the link to anyone that might benefit. If you haven't connected with me on social media, click the buttons on the top right and let's get connected today.
Now it's your turn. What other blogs do you read that I haven't listed here? Are there topics would you like to see more of here? What do I do well? How can I do better? Thanks so much for your support.