Back in April of 2020, I wrote a post all about how I started a new website during quarantine. I started this new project at a time when this website, Goats On The Road (our baby for the past 8 years), was suffering greatly due to COVID.
Saying it like that makes it sound as though this website actually had COVID.
While it definitely wasn’t that serious, we did suffer some pretty intense losses in traffic and income on this blog (luckily it has mostly recovered now).
It wasn’t so much watching the income and traffic drop that hurt (although that was a bit painful I’m not going to lie), it was the thought that our baby, a website we had poured our heart and soul into for nearly a decade, was seemingly dying right in front of us.
But this post isn’t a “woe is me” tale of a travel blogger complaining about having no traffic when there are people in much worse situations.
This is a story of a project I started during those dark moments in our blogging career.
A project that breathed new life into our business minds and gave me and Dariece new purpose and goals during a time when there wasn’t much else to do but stay inside and work on the laptops.
I know that a lot of people who read this blog either have their own website/blog or have always thought of starting one.
So I hope this in-depth case study will be the inspiration (or the kick in the butt) that so many people need to get a new side hustle started.
In this article, I’m going to share with you the progression of the new blog I started a year ago, much the way we did a few years back with our post about Goats On The Road’s progression called “From Hobby To Career: The Evolution of Our Blog“.
I’ll show you my traffic and income each month and explain how I was able to grow the site from $0 to $8,483 per month in just 12 months!
I’ll also show you how you can replicate my successes (and avoid common failures) with your own new project, should you choose to start a blog today.
Note: I share my specific income from my website to inspire others to hopefully start turning their passions into profit through blogging. If you’re not interested in blogging or online entrepreneurship, then this post isn’t for you. Check out other cool travel jobs in our sustaining travel section.
Why Did I Start a New Blog?
I’ve been preaching to my students in my Beginner Blogger Course and my Free SEO Training Course for years that it’s possible to build a new site and grow it to the point that it can earn a decent income in a year.
But I always had the same pushback.
“Easy for you to say. You started your website 8 years ago when there were hardly any blogs online and there was no competition.”
My rebuttal was always that while the competition is higher these days, so is the opportunity.
With so many new companies starting to understand the value of being featured on blogs, it’s easier than ever to grow and monetize.
Nevertheless, deep down I was also curious to know if I really could create a successful site again. All of those naysayers really got into my head!
I was thinking…
“What if Goats On The Road was just a fluke?”
We have had quite a few of our blogging students from our courses use our SEO blog growth strategies to grow their sites and quit their jobs to blog full-time, so I knew that the strategies I use still work for new blogs, but I had to prove it to myself.
And so, in the Middle of March 2020 I started a new website around another topic that I’m passionate about (not travel), and on April 1st, 2020, I published my first post.
How Did I Pick a Niche?
This is one of the most important steps when starting a new blog or website. Every blog needs a niche. Gone are the days of blogging about anything you want to blog about, and still get enough traffic to earn a living.
You need to have a niche.
And I don’t mean just “travel”, or “tech”, or “cooking”. You need to niche down further than that and be more specific.
The Passions To Profit Method
For my next site, I knew that I needed to be in a niche that I was passionate about.
A lot of people will start a website about anything they see as monetizable, like “bestyogapants.com”, even though they’ve never done a ‘downward dog’.
While that’s absolutely fine and I’m not knocking it, I knew that if I was going to go all-in on this new site, it had to be something that I was interested in, and something that I can earn an income from.
So I went through a few of the hobbies and interests that I have and after a pretty in-depth market study, I picked one.
Initial Market Study
Even though I had picked a niche that was quite specific, I needed to make sure of two things.
- People were actually searching in Google for this topic
- The phrases they searched into Google were potentially lucrative
After a lot of work diving into the competition and the volume of search terms, I knew it was a viable niche to get into.
If I were starting a website just as a hobby to share my stories with friends and family, choosing keywords and then planning a monetization strategy wouldn’t matter.
But as I was building this site as a business, I needed to know how I was going to earn that income.
- Ads: These days in-content ads (like the ones you see on this page) have become so well-optimized that they are often a monetization strategy in themselves. There are thousands of websites (particularly in the home cooking niche) that earn great money with little or no other monetization strategy besides lots of traffic and in-content ads. While this was part of my strategy, I definitely planned on diversifying.
- Amazon: Even though Amazon slashed their commissions at the very start of COVID (had they not, my new website would be over $10,000 per month today), I knew that I could still make a decent income from Amazon so it was my #1 affiliate strategy.
- Backup Affiliates: Amazon seems to slash their affiliate commissions every 2-3 years, so I needed other affiliates as a backup. I searched around in my niche and luckily found quite a few. They never convert as well as Amazon because everyone is more comfortable ordering with their Prime account, but they have higher commissions and longer cookie durations that could bridge the gap a bit should Amazon commissions get lowered again.
- Sponsors: I knew that the big companies in my space had some money to spend on advertising so I knew that I could get them on board once I had enough traffic and sales numbers. Hopefully on an ongoing monthly basis.
- YouTube: I hadn’t planned on this from the get-go, but after a couple of months working on the blog, I decided to start a YouTube Channel for it as well and hopefully monetize that down the road.
Starting The Website
Starting and designing a site is really simple and this only took me a few hours in total.
I purchased my domain name, paid for hosting ($106 for 3 years using this discount with Bluehost), and picked a beautiful-looking design template for my new site.
Voila, after a few tweaks here and there, I had my site up and running using Elementor. The website is virtually the exact same design and set-up now as it was the day I started it.
It’s always important to visualize goals when starting any new project and for me with a new blog/business, I always have a purpose goal and a monetary goal.
The purpose of this new site was to share my passion with my readers and hopefully help them to be more sustainable. I also had a couple of traffic goals which helped me to ensure that I was reaching enough people to have an impact.
My traffic goal for this new site was 25,000 sessions after the first year. I actually doubled that — which is fantastic.
There are many ways to monetize a website or blog in every niche. When it came to monetization with this site I had two goals in mind. The “Acceptable” goal and the “Best Case” goal.
Acceptable Goal ($1,500 / month): I told myself that I would be happy if this site made $1,500+ per month after one year. That would prove that you can earn a minimalist life-supporting income from blogging in a year. And, when living in a more affordable country, that money goes pretty far.
Best Case Goal ($3,000 / month): While I’d be happy with $1,500, I really wanted this site to earn $3,000 per month or more after a year. I figured at that point it’s pretty much a full-time-job-replacing income in 12 months and that would be amazing.
I know a lot of people are going to read this and think that it’s a huge investment to hire writers, and it is.
If you’re thinking of starting your first blog, you’ll probably skip this step because you can write all of the posts yourself, as long as you know how to write a great blog post.
My new site averages around 5 posts published per week. These posts have an average word count of around 2,000 words.
This means that if you were to write for yourself instead of paying for writers, you would have to spend an extra 10 hours per week working on your new blog.
In my case, even if I wrote all of the posts myself, I’d still be working fewer than 20 hours per week on this site.
But I didn’t have the luxury of time!
I’m also running 3 other websites and 2 blogging courses which take up the rest of my working hours each week (plus I plan to travel non-stop when it’s possible to do so).
So, I decided to hire writers for two reasons:
- Like I said… I didn’t have time.
- I could hire people who have more expertise than me.
So where did I find these writers? I found them in 2 ways.
Upwork is the largest community of freelancers anywhere online.
I typed in my niche into the search box on Upwork and found about 10 results that looked like they’d fit the bill, which wasn’t a lot considering there are over 18 million freelancers on the platform.
I didn’t just hire them right away. I created in-depth blog post templates to make sure they follow all of the steps to write great SEO blog posts.
My plan was to have them follow these templates closely, so I sent them examples to have a look at. If they figured they would be able to fill the template with their own expertise, they’d move onto the next step.
Next, I interviewed each of the writers just by chatting back and forth with them on Upwork. Mainly I wanted to make sure they were complete experts on the topics I was covering and I needed to decide which of them would write which content.
Eventually, I narrowed down 4 writers who started working with us.
Note: Team building is essential. I credit a lot of the success of this business with the team I was able to build. If you are hiring people for your business, don’t rush this part. The team is the foundation of the business you are creating.
Here’s a little hack. If you’re looking for writers for your blog, type into Google the niche and then a free blogging platform like blogger.com or wordpress.org (ie: “Paintball blog blogger.com”).
Then look at their blogs, read a few posts and if they seem like a good fit, you can contact them to hire them.
The reason I add a free blogging platform like Blogger.com into the search is that this means that they aren’t blogging full-time already. If someone is already blogging full-time and earning income, they probably don’t have spare time to freelance.
By finding bloggers on Blogger.com, WordPress.org, and the like, I was able to find hobby bloggers who were interested in earning a bit of side money blogging about things they were already writing about for free.
This is how I found a few of my writers and it’s worked out very well for me.
The Blog Gets Rolling
After a couple of weeks with my four new writers, we get into the swing of things. They submit 3 posts each every Friday and I spend my weekend editing the posts and scheduling them.
When I wasn’t editing blog posts, I was reaching out to other sites in my niche and contacts I had through blogging on Goats On The Road to do guest posts and get my new blog’s name out there.
In total, I did about 35 guest posts (written by myself or my writers).
At first, I was paying around $35 per 2,000 words and this has since more than doubled as the site grew.
I hired my team on the premise that we were a brand new site and we were going to build the site together. This gave them the incentive to write quality posts so that their income could go up as the site grew.
It also helped them to feel like they were a part of the process, which they were. Building a team that shares the goals of the business is vital.
The Month-By-Month Progression
Now for juicy bits. This is what everyone wants to see when they are reading a blog case study.
I think it’s really useful to see a month-by-month evolution of any start-up business. I know it always excites me to see them, especially when they include traffic growth and income numbers.
So here it goes. This is how the site grew month after month.
Note: For those of you who aren’t blogging geeks like us, “DA” is a number given to websites to rate them from 1-100 based on how likely they might rank in search engines like Google. It’s a rudimentary measure of a site’s authority, hence the acronym “Domain Authority”.
- Traffic: 124 Users (Probably mostly me and the writers visiting the site)
- Revenue: $0
- DA: 0
The first post is published on the blog and I’m hiring writers. It takes 2 weeks before we get into a rhythm and I’m actually scheduling the goal of 5 posts per week.
- Traffic: 457 Users
- Revenue: $18
- DA: 20
I really start reaching out to other websites in my niche at this point and try to guest post and get featured on their sites.
By having a site featured in a lot of other places, it can drive traffic to it by introducing it to other readers, and also Google likes when you get lots of links from other quality websites.
I also take advantage of some of my blogging contacts to get guest posts on sites in the travel niche. They aren’t as relevant, but they’re still valuable links.
At the end of this month, I write this post on Goats On The Road with the plan to share the progress of the site with the world. I didn’t realize it when I published the post (in that post I claim that the site earned $0), but in reality, the site had already made $18 at that point!
I also start an email newsletter this month and begin gathering emails from my audience. I also hire a couple of my best writers to start doing videos for a new YouTube Channel to complement the blog.
My idea is to diversify my income and traffic sources with YouTube and I train my team on how to make videos and later, I even purchase and send them mics and lighting.
- Traffic: 1,072 Users
- Revenue: $23
- DA: 21
At this point, I’m still plugging away and not much is happening. This is fully expected. There’s something called “The Google Sandbox” and it basically just means that new sites don’t tend to get traffic for 3-6 months, so it was a waiting game.
Actually, the fact that this site already has over 1,000 users is almost unheard of. Luckily I get featured on a few sites and my Domain Authority goes way up.
I actually go on a press trip in June as well. I contacted a tour operator in my niche and was happy to receive a complimentary trip in exchange for promoting their business.
My post about their business now ranks #1 in Google for my focus keywords, which makes this small business very happy.
- Traffic: 3,871 Users
- Revenue: $120
- DA: 22
My DA goes up one more point, traffic goes up 3X and I’m starting to rank for some of my chosen keywords.
- Traffic: 8,030 Users
- Revenue: $541
- DA: 23
Now I’m starting to see some real income coming in. Mainly from Amazon. I’m happy to see the traffic steadily climbing and I’m getting really excited at this point. Maybe I’m onto something here!
- Traffic: 11,487 Users
- Revenue: $610
- DA: 26
We break the 10,000 users milestone in September. The traffic and the income still go up a bit this month, but not as much as the previous months.
There are some thoughts in my head that maybe the site is plateauing, but I just keep going.
I know from experience that doubt is one of the stages all bloggers go through.
- Traffic: 18,367 Users
- Revenue: $1,544
- DA: 26
The site nearly doubles in traffic this month and the income nearly triples! I am so happy at this point because I’ve reached my “Acceptable” monetary goal with the site and it’s only been 7 months.
At the end of this month, I hire an editor. I create detailed SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) videos for her and give her check-lists and exact rundowns of everything I’ve been doing with editing the posts on the site this far.
Within a week, thanks to the very in-depth video training, she’s up and running and I have more time to start a new project, which I plan to do next month.
Unfortunately, at the end of October, the new site got hacked.
It was a stressful 24 hours but thanks to my great hosting company and adding SiteLock to the site, we were able to get it sorted and back to normal.
- Traffic: 27,096
- Revenue: $2,666
- DA: 27
On the very last day of November, we get accepted to Mediavine!
As we already have another site (actually a couple) on the platform, we get accepted with the lower traffic threshold of 25,000 sessions (rather than the normal 50,000 sessions).
At 27,096 sessions, I officially surpass my traffic goal for this site (25,000 sessions).
I also tested some links from our “backup affiliate” partners and got my first sales there as well. It was only worth about $150 total for the month, but that’s still pretty great to see the backup affiliates working in this niche.
I’m pleased to see the site growing so quickly and the income is almost reaching my “Best Case” goal! My new editor is fully in the swing of things and doing an amazing job, which frees up my time to start another website.
Why not right? If this one is doing so well, why not start another one? This new site is in an entirely new niche with a lot more potential, but a lot more competition as well.
- Traffic: 36,539
- Revenue: $4,391
- DA: 28
Christmas is upon us and the sales numbers on Amazon are reflecting the buying season.
We break $4,000 this month and I couldn’t be happier. Mediavine also earns $982 on its own this month! That’s a pretty great boost in income without having to do anything at all, just simply flicking a switch.
The RPMs (how much you get paid per 1,000 visitors) are around $26 in December, but they later grow to over $36. This is a much higher paying niche than our other two sites (both are in travel).
This is also the first month that I cross that magical threshold of 30,000 users per month.
If you have been reading this blog for a long time, you’ll know that it took us around 3 years to break that milestone with Goats On The Road. It was so exciting to see it happen in just 9 months with the new site.
- Traffic: 32,690 Users
- Revenue: $3,915
- DA: 28
This is the first month we’ve actually gone down in traffic and income, but that’s understandable because it was a big Christmas boom when everyone was searching in my niche to buy gifts, etc.
I’m not too worried about the dip. I can see the potential of this site now and I keep working on it.
Also, I finally get my first sponsor this month which pays around $800. I’m not doing any sponsored posts on this site.
A brand is shipping my team products to review on the blog and on the YouTube Channel (which has just passed 1,000 subscribers and is now monetized at this point).
- Traffic: 38,481 Users
- Revenue: $4,307
- DA: 28
This month I have 3 more sponsors come on board.
One of them is a one-off and the other 2 will be continuing on with us for some time. These sponsors account for $1000 in revenue this month, but I can see the potential for a mutually beneficial partnership moving forward.
I also make a couple of hundred dollars from my YouTube monetization (only ads). It’s not a lot but it’s exciting to see a new way to monetize and grow the business and seeing as I’ve never had much luck with YouTube monetization, it’s an exciting new avenue to go into.
- Traffic: 42,556 Users
- Revenue: $8,483
- DA: 28
The income went up quite a bit in March as we get into a groove with our new sponsors who are incredibly happy with our work.
Because we are able to track sales through our Amazon links, we’re able to prove sales of their products through our links of over $40,000, which means they’re quite happy to pay us to produce more content.
At the end of this month, we sign another large sponsor, with one more in the negotiation phase, which means that the upcoming months will likely continue to grow.
To be considered a six-figure blog you have to earn more than $8,334 per month (12 months x $8,334 = $100,008). It absolutely blows me away that we accomplished this in just 12 months with this new blog.
The same milestone took Goats On The Road almost 4.5 years!
The exciting thing to me isn’t just the money, it’s the idea that you can still turn your passions into profits by blogging about something you love.
I’m always so grateful for the opportunities we have in this modern technological world and starting our first blog (the one you’re reading) almost exactly 9 years ago was the best decision we have ever made in our lives.
In the above month-to-month timeline I included the income for each month, but it’s also handy to have a breakdown of where the income came from to better understand how my monetization strategy is working on the site.
The above pie chart should give you an idea of how the breakdown appears. The sponsors really picked up in the last couple of months which is where I took the data for this chart.
I hope to grow the “Other Affiliates” slice and the “Sponsors” slice of that pie considerably in the coming months.
The Overall Value Of The New Website
There are dozens of online platforms where people can buy and sell websites and thanks to an established market, it’s pretty easy to get an appraisal on a website.
Given the fact that this website earns its money passively (meaning it’s on autopilot and would continue earning money even if I ignored it), and it’s consistent and growing, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t be able to sell it for a conservative 36X monthly revenue.
That’s where I got my evaluation of $303,377 USD.
I also ran the business through the Empire Flippers Website Evaluation Tool and it came up with a max valuation of $330,486 evaluation.
While the tool recommends a $254,220 evaluation, it doesn’t take into consideration growth, which would definitely come into play when selling to a prospective buyer.
The site is seeing a growth average of 33% month on month, so I think I could definitely sell for the higher end of the evaluation.
I’m not looking to sell it currently as I think we can continue to grow this site into a 7-figure exit, but it’s good to know that the value is already there.
To be earning an income each month, plus to be sitting on an asset worth over a quarter of a million dollars is a pretty good investment after one year, especially considering I only invested a total of $13,000 into the site and worked fewer than 10 hours per week on it on average.
If I wasn’t also running 2 other businesses (and starting a 4th new site), I would have definitely considered doing all of the work myself. I could’ve written and edited all of these posts and still been well under a normal 40-hour workweek and still be sitting on a valuable asset.
What This Experience Has Been Worth To Me
The experience of starting a new blog this past year has been priceless.
Like I said a couple of times throughout this post, I share the income and traffic numbers with you guys because I know that’s what excites people and gets them motivated to start a business, but what excites me about this blog is really having a new business to work on.
It has been a blast finding a team of experts and building a new resource online that truly helps people.
Having a blog/website that covers a topic that you’re passionate about is the best thing in the world. There’s really no other feeling like it.
I still remember my long, painful days of working on the oil rigs, enduring grueling 12-hour graveyard shifts.
I remember my mind, body, and soul being exhausted after every day on the rigs and even though oil jobs pay incredibly well, they don’t pay nearly as well as this new site pays.
The best part is that I love this job. I love waking up in the morning with a coffee and sitting in my pajamas and working for a few hours. I love watching as my new project grows and I get more and more feedback from my readers and followers thanking us for our hard work.
I love sharing my passions with people online and building a resource around it that can really help others. This is what blogging is all about.
If you’re interested in starting a blog or website of your own, click here. You’ll receive our Beginner Blogging Course, eBook, and access to our VIP Facebook group for free. If you already have a blog and want to start earning an income, have a look at our free SEO training.
Dariece and I have learned so much in these past 9 years and while I may have learned the “value of hard work” from my jobs in Canada, I think that learning “the value of every moment in life” has been far more important to me.
Blogging has given us the freedom to stop trading hours for dollars and to spend more time doing the things we enjoy. It still blows me away that I’m able to earn a living doing something I love while traveling the world.
I value my time not working far more than my time spent on the computer, and the only job I know that offers time freedom in such abundance is blogging and online entrepreneurship.
I hope that this post is inspiring for all of you current bloggers out there. I hope it shows that if you stick with it, there are still plenty of opportunities to grow your blog.
And for those of you who don’t have a blog yet, I really hope that this post gives you the inspiration you need to finally get one going.
There are many different ways to build a website and many ways to monetize one. The best part is that you can create a blog/website about anything at all.
2020 and the beginning of 2021 have been difficult times for sure, but online businesses are flourishing and will continue to flourish in the future.
Thanks as always for reading.