Welcome to my online blog diary.
Each week or so, I will offer updates on my efforts to create an online business that monetizes my knowledge in the home, garden and wellness niche. This blog diary is intended to be a resource for new and/or struggling bloggers who want to help create a better world through a viable online business that offers useful resources to a thriving online community.
You can scroll through the ongoing post and see updates by date. There will also be special sections to analyze and compare popular resources for beginning bloggers in separate posts that will be linked to this main post.
Use the form below to get a notification when the diary is updated.
Week of November 4, 2019 | Blog Diary
It’s the season of gratitude and that’s what I’ve got for this digital endeavor!
Slowly, slowly, momentum is building and my grasp on the tasks at hand gets firmer.
In the past 6 weeks I’ve:
- Created my content plan for the remainder of the year.
- Created my plan for 2020 – personal and professional.
- Began interviewing coaches.
- Taken one course of book publishing and signed up for another.
- Celebrated my daughter’s wedding (that’s why the delay in updating the diary)
Google Search Ranking
The majority of my humble traffic comes from Google Search, which was my goal. Now that I feel I have a grasp on SEO, I’ve added Instagram as my secondary focus for driving traffic and building my tribe.
Anyway…here’s where things stand on Google Console now that we’re at the 6 month milestone:
- 32,000 impressions, 731 clicks, the average ranking position is 29.
- What is a Bunch of Kale remains in the lead with a long-standing #1 position. The search term only gets about 800 requests a month, but have a DA (domain authority) of 0 (yes – zero) I have to be very strategic of how I build my SEO strategy.
- Canning Bloody Mary Mix comes in a strong second. All of my kitchen pillar posts are trending nicely. I’ll be optimizing every post by the end of the year, prioritizing the ones getting attention.
Goals for the remainder of 2019
- 50 posts published. I’m at 34.
- 50 views per day for 30 consecutive days. This will help me learn what’s working and focus on effective strategies.
- All posts optimized. I continue to struggle with ConvertKit. I’m hoping it’s just that I’m moving too fast and not that the platform is becoming less reliable. I’ll keep you posted on that one.
- Adding Pinterest to my promotion strategy.
- One guest post to build authority and generate traffic.
Goals and Stats for the first 6 months
Pretty pleased with everything. Was surprised by Facebook, but I really haven’t been focusing on that page. It’s just not a priority these days, but the group is and I hope to see that number begin to move in 2020 as I create a meaningful engagement strategy that creates a true community.
Goals I’m chasing:
- 50 published posts by December 31, 2019
- 10,000 Instagram followers by end of 2020
- 5,000 Facebook Page likes (thinking this will be a ripple effect from Instagram)
- 1,000 Facebook Group members with 25% engagement rate.
- Book proposal complete by end of the year, agent or self-publishing decision by April 2020.
- Add video or podcast in 2020.
Week of September 22, 2019 | Blog Diary
Welcome to fall!
I’ve been working on my goals and project plans for the last quarter of 2019 for the past week. I use the book Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt (affiliate link). I first used the book for planning purposes last fall and I have to say 2019 was one of the best years I’ve had in quite a long time. I like being able to hang each activity in my day on the hook of some greater goal.
I’ve consistently been publishing 1-2 posts per week, and the effort is beginning to show results. While my Domain Authority on this new site is only 2, my traffic from search engines is steadily increasing.
ConverKit is giving me nothing but grief these days. I’m thinking about moving over to Kajabi because one of my goals is to publish my first course int the first quarter of 2020 and it an all-in-one platform for list building and course creation. I’ll keep you posted.
Details: Convertkit wasn’t working on my site in the Genesis eNews Extended widget, which is central to my list building strategy. I spent 3 months creating the Seasonal Living Framework, associated workbook, and email sequence to welcome new subscribers. As of today, with about a million emails between me and the tech team at ConvertKit, new subscribers can download the workbook but the sequence is not firing. I’m glad the traffic is still low so I can work out big bugs like this and not lose too may subscribers.
Google Search Ranking
The trends in Google continue to steadily improve for this new site.
- Total clicks since launching the site is 180. That’s more than double since my last update 3 weeks ago.
- The top post remains A Bunch of Kale. I optimize the post about once a week. Most recently I added a FAQ through my Yoast plugin. You can learn more here.
- Rising in popularity are Fermented Dilly Beans and Garden Fresh Bloody Mary Recipe. I’m hoping their trending increases exponentially as well.
I rely upon KWFinder (affiliate link) to identify strong keywords in my niche. It’s an affordable keyword finder app that doesn’t take an advanced degree in IT to understand. Here’s a pretty good review of the product to help you learn more.
Goals and stats for the end of September 2019
Week of September 1, 2019 | Blog Diary
The past 6 weeks have been harrowing!
I changed the email address in ConvertKit and saw a substantial drop in my open rate.
Then, I changed some of the plugins I use to monitor the site’s traffic and knocked Google Analytics offline.
These small things can take hours to correct when you are me, the not-so-techy type. Everything is back on track and I’m in full content creating mode through the end of the year.
Google Search Ranking
I am so excited by the progress with my Google Search Ranking. Since I last posted, I’ve improved in every category and have 1 post that is trending nicely and teaching how to improve other posts.
Here are my current stats for a site that is 4 months old:
70 total clicks from Google and an average search position is 44. That search position ranking is down from 102 3 weeks ago. Of course, the goal is to have that average ranking be below 10. I feel on track to meet that goal by the end of the year.
The post that is ranking has the keyword ‘bunch-of-kale’ and answers the very popular question ‘what’s in a bunch of kale. I’ll be optimizing that post and republishing later today.
The post on fermented dilly beans is doing really well, but that seems to be driven by Pinterest shares.
The best part about these early days when a website has no traffic is that we can learn, and change, and refine our voice and message without giving our readers whiplash.
Goals and Stats
The revenue is from poster sales and Amazon Affiliate income.
I’ve begun a new strategy with Instagram where I follow 10-20 accounts each day. Then, I unfollow anyone who has not followed back. This feels like it has integrity and helps em inch along toward my goal. I really need to standardize my images and that a priority this month.
I’m going to be updating my goals for the last quarter of 2019 and adding Pinterest. Honestly, I hate this platform, but I can’t deny its power for driving traffic. I do not want to pay the monthly fee for a scheduler right now and that means at least an hour every evening posting. I also have a lot of updating work to do on my profile. The account has been dormant since last February.
The biggest change in expenses is that I decided to take Michael Hyatt’s Get Published course. It is $300 and I’m spreading that out over 3 months. Next month I expect there to be an $85 fee from Fiverr for some design services. We’ll have to see how the budgeting goes as I get closer and closer to my daughter’s wedding (!!!) in October.
So, that’s it for now. I’ll be in touch mid-month with my next update. Hoping to report a Google Ranking closer to 20 by then!!!
Week of July 15, 2019 | Blog Diary
I’m actually eager to complete this review of efforts for the blog. Managing 5 acres in mid-summer is a wonderful joy and gives my life its meaning. It’s also a fulltime job, so building the blog has a lot of competition with it comes to setting daily and weekly priorities.
Universal advice for creating Domain Authority is to write 3 posts per week, each at least 2,000 words. The way I have decided to build the blog demands that each post gets a minimum of 10 hours of focused time. The past few weeks, I’ve only been able to post 1 new article per week. Still, I firmly believe slow and steady set the pace. I promised myself I will only freak out if I do not publish at all.
My goal for the next 2 weeks is 1 new blog post and 1 newsletter per week. I’ve scheduled the first week of August off and will be writing the entire time. My plan is to write enough to have posts scheduled for publication through the end of September.
I’m not sure if I had a setback, but it certainly is a change to my routine…I’m not participating in my small accountability group due to personality issues. It was good having a set schedule to review progress and I will miss that for sure. The change has made this little blog diary all the more central to my blogging journey. Soon, I’ll be setting up a newsletter just for visitors to this page. We can grow and learn together, recover from setbacks and celebrate accomplishments. No power struggles. No subtle putdowns. Just good information and solid support.
Goals and Stats
One of the keys to blogging success is relationship building. This online business has benefitted from the generosity of a couple of influencers in my niche these past 2 weeks. A fermentation guru shared my Dilly Bean post and this gave a nice bump to my page views and is the source of the little bit of revenue from Amazon. A reader made a purchase using my links. We picked up the Facebook page and group visitors as well. It was a nice little bit of affirmation for the slow and steady direction I am heading in and certainly took the sting out of being let go from my accountability group.
A local venue is carrying Bob’s posters. The promotion of the gallery gave us a nice little bump in Instagram visitors and followers. While migrating the blog from the Stony Ridge Farm site to this new brand, I’ve had our shop on Shopify. It is very expensive and I plan on migrating the ship here this week. Getting my monthly expenses down for the blog is a big goal of mine, and Shopify is expensive!
I had been trending nicely on Google Search Console and had dropped in average ranking from 79 down to 69. Today, I have an average ranking of 102. When I dug deep, it seems I’m showing up in results for keywords I hadn’t considered writing about like ‘Harpers Ferry Weather‘ and ‘Hungry Caterpillar Fabric‘. I need to ask someone if this is something I should build upon, like if I’m ranking for a keyword should I create a post about it, or keep laser focused on the keywords I have prioritized. I suspect it is the latter.
Not bad and nothing unexpected. As mentioned above, I expect this to be the last month of billing for Shopify. It was just a placeholder during migration to this new brand.
So far, the greatest lesson I’ve learned in this brand migration is the importance of taking the long view. While I aim for 125 posts and the launch of my first webinar, I have to remain committed to making my whole life work.
When I feel stressed, I decide to tackle one task from my blogging to-do list. Then, I shake off the worry and manufactured stress and turn to the next priority in my day.
we can’t teach wellness and not practice wellness. That is the lesson week 7 brings to this blog diary.
I probably won’t post an update until week 9. In the early stages, there’s just not enough action to justify weekly updates. I am confident that day will come soon enough!
Week of July 1 | Blog Diary
It’s been busy and I have a time management issue. Taking care of 5 acres, animals, and an online business demands more effort than I can supply these days. That’s the reason for the gap in the diary.
A lot has happened since early June. Here are the highlights:
- I have 11 blog posts, each well over 2,000 words. They’ve been optimized on using KWFinder and Ubersuggest.
- I had my first social share from an influencer in my niche resulting in a surge in traffic from an average of 25 unique visits a day to 60 unique visits a day.
- My newsletter open rates are all over the place and I’m frustrated.
- Engagement is up on Facebook and holding steady on Instagram.
Goals and Stats
These numbers pretty much speak for themselves. Slow and steady sets the pace. Beginning next week I will be adding another Google ranking called Average Search Position. Last week I was at 72 and this week I am at 69.
In My SEO Course, Rob Powell recommends we subscribe to a Key Word search service, so you will see a new bill for KWFinder. The logic behind this is with the majority of new bloggers using the free service, you get an edge by using the paid service and the ability to dig deeper into SEO stats. I have found it useful and will continue to use the service as long as I can.
The biggest take-away from the last month of blogging on the new site is that I can only publish 1 post a week. This is because the standards for my posts are rigorous and my life is particularly demanding during the growing season.
You may be curious as to what my standards are for each post, so I thought I’d list them. I define a keyword in my niche and write a post with these factors in mind:
- Keyword Difficulty below 35, optimally below 30.
- Search volume at least 150/month if not significantly higher.
- Lowest Domain Authority of competing blogs below 35, hopefully below 25.
- An outline that supports a minimum of 2,000 words of text and encompases every subheader in competing posts.
- Has at least 3 inbound and 3 outbound links.
The other big thing that happened this past month is that after 2 years of trying, I really and sincerely defined my avatar, my perfect customer. Her name is Lissa and I will introduce you to her in a separate blog post.
That’s it for now! Feel free to respond with questions or comments below. I love talking about this stuff!
Week of June 9, 2019 | Blog Diary
It’s been a very good week with lots of draft posts written and a couple published. I’ve gotten myself into and climbed my way out of a few tech issues. Mostly, I simply feel confident in my business plan and supporting task lists.
Goals and Stats for Week 2
It is always nice to see income on the blog report, even if it is only $3.59! I really enjoy being an Amazon affiliate because I can monetize my blog posts in a way that enhances the content. I doubt I will ever add an ad program to this site that randomly generates images that have no relation to the content. This way will generate less revenue over time, but feel like it has more integrity.
I like the trends in my traffic goals. The 3 visitors who found the site by organic search make me particularly grateful. I am focusing on 2 promotional strategies for the blog: SEO and Instagram, with the heaviest emphasis on SEO.
I think that optimizing content for search engines like Google is a very professional way to serve your community as a blogger. As a content generator, we have 2 options:
- Write content based on our own desires and experience and hope someone finds it useful.
- Take the time to develop your avatar (your perfect ideal customer) and do the research to understand their pain points. Then, give them solutions to that pain point that are well written and actionable. This, my friend, is my definition of content optimized for SEO.
Email List Building
I’ve been keeping my email list around 500 for the past year. I do this by using a function in ConvertKit that allows me to identify cold subscribers. There’s a method of deleting emails from that list that aren’t too new and do not include my friends. Cold subscribers get deleted once a month.
I like keeping my open rate around 25% because the tone is more conversational. It’s simply nicer writing to an engaged list.
Instagram and Facebook
My Instagram account has been holding steady in the low 1000s for a few weeks now. I have not had time for regular posting while I was in the weeds building the site. At the advice of another blogger, I’m taking an Instagram marketing course on Udemy. I’ll give a review next week.
I just stepped back into Facebook last week after a 6-month absence. I was very close to deleting my accounts at the end of last year because I find Facebook to be so soul-deadening. But, when I looked at my traffic stats, I had to admit that simply connecting my Instagram account to my Facebook business page was generating significant traffic.
I’m not posting new content to that page, but rather focusing my Facebook time on my group. That way I’m not caught off-guard by distracting negativity. The engagement has been steady and I’m actually looking forward to fleshing out this promotional strategy.
Lessons Learned | Week 2 | Blog Diary
The most significant insight I had this week, is it is worth the time and effort when you simply commit to slowing down and doing things right. In the blogging course that I took last year, and like to bitch about at every opportunity I get, they gave a lot of bad advice. But, the worst advice I think the course gave was to release your perfectionism.
Why is this bad, you ask?
It is bad advice because the online marketplace is crowded and redundant. If you don’t take the time to deeply understand your avatar, SEO basics, and your social media platform of choice, you are going to spin your wheels.
The Board President for the last nonprofit I managed often said, “there’s never enough time to do it right the first pass,but plenty of time to fix it later.”
Save all that time fixing blog posts by creating excellent content, every time.
Slow and steady sets the course, my friend.
Expenses | Week 2
Not a bad week expense wise. All I can say is that I did my darndest to get a good photo session for the blog and it was a complete flop. At every turn my desires were upended by the photographer. She got the shoot she wanted. I got disappointment.
I’m going to have to re-do all that effort in the near future. I am truly jealous of all of you who are comfortable in front of the camera.
Week of June 2, 2019 Blog Diary
Goals and Stats | Week 1 | Blog Diary
I launched my rebranded blog this week by linking it to Google Analytics and Google Search Console and asking the Google bots to crawl my site. So, my current stats are at a zero baseline. I’ll be updating these goals and stats weekly in the blog diary.
Here’s my baseline:
Blogging is no cheap enterprise. There are weekly, monthly and annual expenses to consider. As expenses come up, I’ll explain why I chose a paid service over a free service. This is a great topic for the comments thread. Ask away and share your experiences!
G Suite Email
To send mass emails you must have an email address with your root domain. This is how email service providers like ConvertKit ensure you are not a spammer. G Suite also comes with enhanced collaboration tools and more Google Docs storage. You can’t blog successfully without an email list, and you can maintain an email list without a professional email. G Suite is the industry standard and my choice.
High-quality images are essential to a professional blog’s success. I often use free image sources like Unsplash and Pexels. I often need something more specific to my brand or topic, and the image catalog of my design service, Canva, is vast and affordable. Most images only cost $1.
Email Service Providers
As I mentioned earlier, you can’t maintain a professional blog without an email list. I’ll talk more about this in a future post. To maintain the list, you need a reliable and easy to use email service provider (ESP). There are many free options out there, but I have found the monthly expense of Convertkit to be necessary because of the add-on services that come with the basic mass email delivery service. I am an affiliate market for ConvertKit and will be writing more about this service in the future.
Monetizing a blog is how you serve the world with a long-term vision and professionalism. If your online business does not have revenue goals and strategies, it’s a hobby.
As I am launching the blog today, there is no income to report. I expect that to change dramatically over the next 6 months. One of the primary purposes of this blog diary is to help you have realistic expectations about time, effort, expenses and revenue potential for your online business.
Lorrie Season is a rebrand of my first attempt at professional blogging. The original site is the Stony Ridge Farm Blog. Goodness, how I love that blog! It is a compilation of 2 years of hard study and work. It’s like an undergraduate thesis paper in creating an online business.
I needed to rebrand for 2 reasons:
- Bob and I are seriously considering downsizing and selling the farm. It’s a LOT of work and we’re getting older. So, I needed to move the work I was doing online to a brand that was more than just this beautiful place I live.
- I had learned so much about blogging over the past 2 years, that I really only see mistakes in the old blog. I wanted a fresh start based on real knowledge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), branding. And, honestly, my writing is much better after 2 years of steady practice and improvement. I’ve found my voice and it needs a new platform.
Take the long view
My biggest mistake with the first blog was to believe instructors who said you can build a viable online business in 9 to 12 months. I even invested heavily in a very popular training program that offered a ‘framework’ to create a monetized blog.
My advice to you, is to not believe these claims. It is better to learn and study with instructors who say it will take 2-4 years to build an viable online business. Often in their training programs they begin by sharing how they really struggled in the beginning and set a realistic set of expectations for beginners.
I recommend Amy Porterfield’s List Builder’s Lab for beginning bloggers. It is a great intro to online business creation course. The lessons on writing blog and email copy are worth the price of admission. The course is designed to help you create a thriving community of raving fans that will have a high level of engagement with your content.
I also recommend Rob Powell’s SEO Training called Page 1 Traffic Surge. It breaks down the elements of SEO with the beginner in mind. And, then gives a 21-Day, step-by-step guide to creating blog posts with the intention of getting to Page 1 on Google for your keywords. I’ve taken a gazillion SEO trainings for beginners, this is by far and away the best.
In this post, I use the term blog to describe an online business where the primary content is a written post of about 2,000 words. The posts support the promotion of a brand, products, and services that comprise the business.
I think the short answer is it is very difficult to make money from a blog. If your intent is to generate income, you must define products and services for your unique niche and use the blog to define, describe, and promote those products and services.
Generally speaking, you should give an online business built around blog content 24 months to begin making money. Primary ways for blogs to generate revenue are ebooks, affiliate links, digital courses, and unique products and services.