Making Sense of Cents – How a Solo Blogger Makes 100k a Month With a Blog
Can You Really Make 100k a Month with Blog?
I used to think this sort of income was impossible without a hiring a team. When I started online years ago most “bloggers” who were making money online were only making a few thousand dollars a month.
The few that I knew who were making 20k a month though were doing so by way of information products, consulting and services. 20k is still a huge amount of money and it’s what I naively thought was the limit for a solo blogger given the right niche.
But, Michelle of MakingSenseofCents.com is proving that the financial niche is one amazing niche where riches are to be found if you’re able to stand out. Check out the Penny Hoarder case study as well if you’ve not already done so.
The Launch of Making Sense of Cents
Michelle launched her blog back in 2012 and got right to work publishing content, marketing her blog and throwing up advertisements for financial services.
It’s pretty dang impressive looking at her blog the way it was in 2012. She started off publishing 500 wordish blog posts every single day. From a content perspective this was actually advisable back during this time, but now it’s no ideal unless you don’t care about SEO.
Most, including myself would suggest having a content strategy for your blog:
1 – Blog posts that go after keywords and phrases. These types of posts should be 1500 words minimum.
2 – Blog posts that are designed for social media and to be a bit more sharable.
3 – Whatever you want to write as it relates to your topic! Sometimes, these sorts of posts will get traffic from social and search for keywords and phrase you were not even targeting. It also helps to round out the site to make it more natural.
I did this with a post called 19 things no one tells 19 year olds on my personal blog. It falls into the more shareable category a bit, but what I mean by shareable would be something like “the 10 Photoshop alternatives You Need To Know about.” A title like that is still focused on a keyword, “photoshop alternatives” yet it still is clickworthy and shareable.
My 19 things blog post is now one of my top 5 blog posts for traffic. It’s 2500 words long and is not targeting any keywords yet does really well because it gets shared with ease across social media.
Making Sense of Cents was popular from the start
Michelle worked hard and her blog was one of those blogs that took off quickly and within a few months she was getting comments and traffic for her content. This was in part because at the time she used comment luv – a now out dated plugin that would allow blog commentors to get a link to their latest post IF they left a comment.
This encouraged commenting and also drove traffic. How exactly? What people would do is simply Google “comment luv” or “my recent post” (the copy the plugin uses) and Google would then give results of blogs with comment luv installed that you could jump into an leave a comment.
This strategy does not work today obviously for traffic purposes. You should leave comments on blogs however because it helps build a natural looking link profile and because you’re a human right? Humans leave comments. I’ve done SEO audits on websites and have seen sites that they have 90% follow links and 10% no-follow.
Not good because that looks artificial.
Lastly, she huge on Pintrest. Seriously, Pintrest is crazy capable of driving a ton of traffic. She currently does 2.5 million views a month on her Pintrest account (check to see for yourself!). Now, this does not mean she is getting millions of visitors from Pintrest, just that her profile gets viewed that many times.
Michelle also joined blogging networks in order to also help promote her blog. So this combination all worked in her favor to make her blog really popular. Being a prolific writer, having a good story and a reason “why” behind the blog (like vloggers today, she was good at living her life and sharing her story) good design, and a topic she was interested in.
Just take a look at her archives from 2011:
This was a very aggressive publishing schedule. At least twice a day. Granted, he content was 500 words or so, but that equates to writing 1000 words per day, everyday for months.
So before you complain about your blog traffic, have your written any content worth reading or sharing? You can totally get traffic with a handful of optimized posts, but you’re still going to need content before you can get traffic. For a new blog, I would aim for at least 20 posts of 1300+ word content before I started any sort of promotion.
Do you need to do what she did and publish everyday?
NO. But you do need a content strategy. You can build a blog or a website that gets a lot of traffic IF you can rank for some high value keywords and phrases. Backlinko.com is the classic example. It’s a website with 40 pages or so of published content yet it get’s 100k visitors a month.
Why? Because those 40 pages are massive 3000-5000 word guides that dominate the Google search results page. Google “SEO tools” – a keyword a ton of blogs and companies would LOVE to rank for and tell me what you find? Hint – it’s Backlinko with a massive and insaenely helpful resource page.
What can you do in today’s market?
If you want to follow in Michelle’s footsteps you really need to be interested in personal finance. That’s not to say you need to pretend to be some expert and tell people how to save money by cutting back on Starbucks or something, you just need to be interested in optimizing money as it relates to your life and sharing it with the world.
Don’t start a finance blog because you think you can make money. Pick something you’re actually interested in and relate it to your life. My personal blog is about travel and online business because that’s what I’m into on a personal level.
How Making Sense of Cents Makes Money Hand Over Fist
As I stated in the YouTube video (linked above) her income follows the good old 80/20 rule. That is, 80% of her income comes from just 20% of her activities.
Most of her income actually comes from affiliate marketing and then a course on affiliate marketing.
1 – She is an affiliate for Blue Host (I suggest SiteGround) which makes her a comfortable 25k a month. She makes money by proving value via a tutorial page on her site and via her email list. Because she has a dedicated page to starting a blog, it’s something she can always link to in various blog posts.
2 – She’s also big on promoting surveys by marketing them as ways to make extra money online. Maybe in the past she actually used these surveys but now she makes money by promoting surveys via again her email list as well as having multiple pages about ways to make money online, how to make extra income, how to earn a side income etc. In these posts she always pushes surveys in a smart and compelling way. Surveys end up being 10k a month for her.
3 – She allows for paid content to be published on her blog. So companies can pay her to publish a blog post and in the blog post she will use affiliate links to promote the product the company is selling so it’s a BIG win win for her. She gets paid to publish the blog post and makes money via affiliate marketing.
Look at this blog post:
It’s sponsored content from an app called Empower. She was paid to publish this blog post on her site. She’s also been given an affiliate link for Empower so she makes money in a secondary way as well.
4 – Last is her course on affiliate marketing. She makes 30k a month from this.
You see how it all works together?
She works really hard day after day to make her blog popular. Once she had a popular blog she was able to give away a free tutorial on how she did it and why blogging was so life changing. This post and being an affiliate for Blue Host allowed her to make a lot of money as an affiliate marketer which then gave her the authority to launch a course on affiliate marketing.
She has one awesome business and while she claims she just stumbled into this, I think she knew exactly what she was doing right from the start.
SEO and Making Sense of Cents
Michelle did not understand SEO when she started her blog. It’s actually the biggest weakness of what she is doing online. She currently has the post date in the URL, making her URL’s needlessly long.
Wow, what a mess.
Michelle does everything wrong with her URL’s. The date is useless and she puts in way too many words. I would change this URL to something like find-13000-savings or something like empower-saving-app.
Nice and short always wins from an SEO perspective today.
Should she get rid of the dates you may be wondering?
NO. Once you pick a structure and have been using a structure for years, it’s best to just stick with it as it will hurt your SEO more than anything else if you change it. But if you’re starting out, go with /blog/post-name for your blog posts.
The ideal structure however if you have a 1000+ page website is this:
You’re going to want to have the categories in the URL only if you have a lot of content. So something like /seo/post-title or even more specific would be /seo/links/post-title – the advantage of this is it enable you to have a lot of pages that can rank for different keywords and phrases but at the same time, you won’t have redundant pages that are both trying to rank for the same thing.
This is the issue that people who use /post-name/ run into. Website.com/post-name is great BUT it does not tell search engines if this is a page or a blog post nor does it allow for a lot of different content. This is fine as Backlinko.com shows, but if you’re building out a site that is going to have a lot of content, like 1000+ pages put categories into the URL and also have 5-7 categories. Not 2 or 3, and not anymore than 7.
The best structure for most websites and blogs is simply to put blog/post-title in your URL. This tells allows search engines to tell what are your blog posts as well as what are your pages.
How To Replicate Her Success
Live your life, share your story. She does a good job of mixing in “money posts” like the whole 6 ways to save money with a credit card app where she will use affiliate links to posts about her life like lessons she learned from living in an RV.
If you’re going to blog, you’ll need to do the same. Share your success and failure at things. Find the right balance between writing for search engines and writing for people and knowing how to sell with words.
Your niche also matters. Personal finance is a great niche, a lot of apps and tools and surveys to promote as an affiliate. But again, what I like about her blog is that it’s also her blog. She provides a personal touch on her site by documenting early on how she was saving money, budgeting and trying to optimize her life.
She’s also skilled with writing money posts in an authentic way. That’s what matter and what separates her from internet marketers. She cares, they just want to make money.