I had no idea there were so many personal finance blogs out there until I connected with the community over twitter.
Overall, it has been a great experience. But one thing has started to bother me about the perspective some people have about other blogs.
People in the PF space are not that different from other people. They want to make sense of their world, and sometimes it is easier to process what is going on by generalizing the world around them.
A House Divided Cannot Stand
The idea goes like this: If you are trying to make money from your blog, this has to be the primary driving force in everything you do with your website. And when this happens, making money has to become the top priority.
But is this true? Can you have a strong desire to make money from your blog and be true to yourself?
If we look outside of the blogging space, this happens all the time. You have a small business owner who wants to increase profits, but also wants to deliver a solid product to their customers. In their head, by having a reliable service/product, they are increasing their chances of having a profitable business. Deep down, who wants to scam other people in buying something that is crap?
Are some business owners, or blogs, willing to sacrifice their conscience for a dollar? Absolutely. But I don't think this is most people, as creating a successful blog takes a massive amount of time, commitment, and effort (but there are some exceptions).
Referring People to Bad Products
Have you heard about Bluehost? It's a very cheap hosting provider who has a lucrative affiliate program.
And it is not uncommon to see some large blogs promote this service. And I would guess that most of them are not using this hosting platform.
I think most people would agree with my frustration in how some bloggers have no problem recommending a service they know is not that great. It is one thing to recommend Bluehost as a low-cost way to get a blog going. But I also think they should be honest about how this is probably one of the worst hosting providers. Their service is not reliable, and your site will be incredibly slow sometimes.
I can relate to how this can be off-putting. If this blogger is recommending a crappy service, what other harmful products are they supporting? Can I trust anything they say?
We should keep all bloggers accountable and confront them on why they are recommending horrible products. But we also shouldn't assume that every blogger out there is willing to compromise the same way. Even if they want to make money from their blog.
Over the last few months, I've started to see people online look down on anyone who does any SEO optimization. I don't think this is anything new, but it took me off guard when I started seeing it.
The everyday things I'll hear are “I don't write content for the search engines”. Or something like “I write for my audience, not Google”. Some people will even take shots at how they don't trust Google's algorithm for determining accurate results.
There are a few things that bother me about these perspectives. The first is the idea there is some conspiracy that Google doesn't want to return relevant results. Google makes its money from ad revenue. Returning valid results will increase the chances the user will perform other searches, come back to the site, and ultimately increase their profits — a win-win for everyone.
In other words, it's in the best interest of Google to want to return the best results possible with their search algorithm.
We can be critical about Google, and maybe there are some areas where it needs significant improvement. But compared to the competition that is out right now, it is by far the best search engine. How much content they have to index and keep updated is staggering, on top of trying to figure out which content is the most relevant.
I get the sense that some people think their content is not as highly ranked as it should be. Maybe this is true, but the last person to know this would be the author of the blog. Of course, they are going to want their stuff to rank higher!
My Perspective on SEO
I haven't done much SEO optimization with the content I've written. But it is something I want to get into eventually.
SEO is a complex beast, and there are many opinions/perspectives out there. For a blog that is serious about generating cash flow, SEO should be a priority.
Part of the process of doing SEO research is figuring out what people are searching for in Google. Maybe they are asking a specific question that gets a lot of hits. Or using a different phrase that you didn't think of. Optimizing for SEO isn't necessarily about changing your content (even though it can), it becomes mainly about shifting the keywords you use in the article title and throughout the content to show up when people are looking for that kind of content. You ultimately end up writing the same article by targeting the keywords they are searching for in Gooogle.
At this stage, I'm focused on keeping up on my content schedule and creating high-quality content. As my domain rank increases over time, and Google learns to trust my content more, I want to see how people are finding my content on Google and think about ways I can generate more search engine traffic.
Optimizing for SEO is about figuring out how to make your content discoverable by the people who would find it useful.
Notice the wording of that last sentence. I'm not writing the content for Google; I'm writing my content so it can be found by the people who might be interested in it! In other words, if you care about people finding your content, you should care about SEO.
My main reason for not spending as much time on SEO at this stage is not having enough time to dig deep into SEO tactics and research tools (plus, these tools are expensive). It also seems like a blog under 6-months old is being tested by Google to gauge how much the search engine trusts that site (seeing backlinks, age of the domain, etc.), so I'm not sure how effective SEO optimization would be at this stage for Money Stir.
Making Money from My Blog
I don't have an internal conflict between trying to generate an income from Money Stir and stay true to who I am as a writer. I've gotten tons of requests through my contact form for $100 sponsored posts that I've passed up on, mainly because I don't believe in the product they are selling.
If someone came along and wanted to pay me $200-$500 for a sponsored post about a product that I like, I would have no problem posting that on the site. I would make it clear that it is a sponsored post, and how I feel about the product.
This idea also relates to how I enabled google ads on the site last month. They're dispersed throughout the website and are marked as ads. I currently don't make very much money on these ads, but I decided to add them because this is an income stream I want to grow over time. Does it take away from the content of the site? Maybe a little bit, but the content is the same regardless of whether or not ads are displayed.
I've also used affiliate links in some articles. They've generated $0 in income so far, but this is something I want to experiment with while Money Stir is small.
You can view more information on how I plan on monetizing Money Stir on the about page.
The Best Blogs Write Great Content and Help People
I don't want you to think I don't want to make massive amounts of money from Money Stir. Because that would be a lie. I dream about the day when we reach financial independence, and part of the current plan would be working on a site like this where I can help others on their financial journey.
Part of my thinking is figuring out a way to help people through the content I write, which stays true to who I am and what I've learned, and to create products that also fill those needs. That's a win-win situation for everyone.
The best case scenario is that the readership on Money Stir continues to grow, where I can earn advertising income from the traffic that is generated from the content. I then would like to have most of the income from the site come from free + premium products that generate recurring revenue in some capacity. From my end, having a unique product that is tied directly to this site is the best chance of making enough income to replace my job and allows me to focus on the site full time. Getting to this point would benefit me and the blog, as I can focus my time during the week to add more value to the site.
Part of this drive comes from how I've lost 15-years of my adult life working through credit card debt. The easiest way to make up for this lost time is to increase our income. More income will increase the chances of reaching financial independence by the time I'm 45-55 years old, which is the ultimate goal.
And I love working on the site and interacting with my readers! You motivate me to continue pushing on, and I hope my transparency helps you on your path as well.
Is Money a Bad Motivator?
The more I worked through the content of this article, the more I realized that having a desire to make money from a blog can actually increase the quality, consistency, and value a blog provides.
What is interesting is that even though I'm following advice recommended by Financial Samurai in how he recommends posting 3x per week, it seems like most people think I'm crazy in trying to pursue this content schedule.
And to be honest, they are probably right. Publishing 3x per week, where each blog post is 1,500 – 2,500 long, is insane when you consider I have a full-time job, a family (with two children), and the normal obligations with a family of four. I'm always having to think about whether or not I'm prioritizing my time to match what is most important to me. And it requires constant communication with Andrea.
That is why I want to get to a spot where I can dedicate more time to the blog and free up more of my time outside of the typical work week to do other non-blogging related things. But I also realize this is going to be a ton of work, and I'm learning as I go.
No Guilt Trip
I'm not writing this article to make bloggers out there not interested in monetizing their blog feel guilty.
My main goal with this article is to challenge this idea that looking at your blog as a business is a bad thing. We shouldn't be looking down at each other in how we decide to run our blogs, and we need to be careful about judging others for having different priorities with their writing.
My gut tells me that some people look at how much time I spend on Money Stir and compare it with what they are doing, and they feel like they lack in some way. Please don't do that. There are others who spend more time than I do on their blog, and people who spend less and are more successful. There is no point in comparing each other. Decide what you are going to do, and do your best in sticking with that plan. Or decide that you don't want to look at your blog as a business.
In either case, don't let yourself feel guilty about how much time you are or are not spending on your blog.
I'm using my desire to increase my income to produce a better blog. I want to continue to be open and honest about my struggles, while also figuring out ways to generate revenue from Money Stir. I'm not ashamed of doing this, and in fact, I think it will ultimately produce a better site.
I know there is a risk that I'm going to alienate myself with some of my opinions on blogging with this article. That is not my intention. I wanted to use this as an opportunity to present my perspective, and how this is going to change what is on Money Stir over time.