Start rocking your reputation!


January 2015 Blog Income + Traffic Report

  |   Blog Income Report   |   31 Comments

The January blog income and traffic report: my tips on increasing visitors' time on site, setting up passback ad tags, + more.


It’s a new year (February already? what?) and I’m excited to dive into some of the behind-the-scenes of how I made my money with my blog last month.



(My hope is that by doing these blog income reports you can you can learn along with me, so please let me know in the comments if there’s something more or different that you’d like me touch on next time!)



If you’re just joining me, this is my third month monetizing the Olyvia site. The first month I made about $90 and the second I made only $2.



Let’s see what happens!





Pageviews:      3,411 (+23 from last month) Blog Pageviews in January 2014


Things held steady this last month as far as traffic, but when I looked closer at the stats, I noticed two important things.

My bounce rate went down and the average time people spent on my site went up.



This is a good sign and an indicator that:



A) I’m either producing more interesting/targeted content, and/or

B) I’m making other posts easier to find.

(Hopefully both!)



I have noticed that people are regularly clicking the Disqus “Related Posts” links now, so that’s certainly helping with getting people to other areas of my blog.



(If you don’t use Disqus, Shareaholic has a related posts option within their plugin. This is what I used previously for my related posts. I like them because they include social sharing options, eliminating the need for two different plugins.)



To encourage my visitors’ to spend more time on my site I’m also going to add in more images of older posts in the sidebar.



If you want to do something similar (and I recommend you do), an easy option on WordPress is to use a “Recent Posts” or “Top Posts” widget.



But you can also make your own custom images (for either posts or entire categories), place them in the sidebar, and then make that image link to places around your website.



This is how A Beautiful Mess does it:


A Beautiful Mess sidebar navigation images on blog



And what it looks like on Centsational Girl:


Centsational Girl sidebar navigation images on blog



Top 10 pages viewed this month:


Thanks to the power of Pinterest, my post on getting noticed on Facebook moved up to #2.



Top Pages on in January 2014



Quick tip for you here: when you look at these stats for your own page, don’t forget to look at the right-hand columns that say Bounce Rate and % Exit.



The bounce rate for a page tells you how many people ONLY viewed that page before leaving your site entirely.



The % exit tells you how many people left your site through that page. (Meaning, after perusing your site, that was the page they last viewed before leaving.)



A high bounce rate can indicate a problem; a % exit rate less so…but it’s still worth noting if it’s much higher than the rest of the site or, say, it’s happening in the middle of a multi-page article.



Therefore it’s a good practice to take note of which pages have the highest bounce rates and exits, and go back to see if there is anything there that is turning people off.



(Or if there’s anything you can add to the post/page to get people to go view more of your blog.)



If you take a look at my stats above, I’ll want to review my 7 Pithy Business Quotes From The Middle Ages post and see if there’s a way I can tweak or add to it (ie: with a link to related content) to get people interested in viewing other parts of my blog.



Top 5 traffic sources this month:


The significant thing this month is that my search engine traffic through Google rose two spots from #5 to #3.


Top Referrers for in January 2015



This means my page is finally (hallelujah!) being found in searches.



(Since I started out with no content and a new domain, it took time for Google to like me. 😉 If you’re in the same situation, you can help your efforts significantly by using a plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast and being sure to use it to optimize each and every blog post you make.)



Top search query driving traffic to “pinterest smart feed” and “byregina” (for the interview I did with Regina of



Top post of all time: How Do I Get Noticed On Facebook (part of this blog series on how to stand out online)



Now let’s look at my blog income report for January.





As I’ve mentioned in past income reports, the figures below are what I made through “passive income” on this blog, not my other client work and services.



This is because my goal is to give you an idea on how to make money with a blog that is not heavily dependent on your experience, unique niche, offline networking efforts, and other variables.



Last month’s earnings are as follows:






Last month I made $2.80 which means my earnings increased by $14.38.



(I know. It’s “only” $17. But can I just say that ANY passive income at all makes me want to do a little happy dance?!)



That said…I was disappointed in my Sovrn ad performance this month.



My earnings were only half of what they were last month. Why? They simply didn’t serve up the ads.



I’m not sure why that was, but it could have been due to their ad inventory running low.



This is one reason why it’s sooo helpful to have a passback ad tag in place. (Also called a backfill ad or backfilling.)



A “passback” or “backfill” ad is where you set up another ad to display if the first ad network doesn’t have ad inventory to serve on your website.



(I do this directly through my Sovrn ad dashboard. Sometimes you have to directly email an ad network to have them do this for you.)



Ideally I’d like this passback ad to be another pay-per-impression ad, but since I’m not a member of another ad network at this point (besides BlogHer, which can’t be used as backfill), my default passback is a regular affiliate banner ad from Amazon.

This isn’t great because it requires someone to click through and then buy something in order for me to earn any money. (That doesn’t happen often, as you can expect.)



Once I get my traffic up a bit higher I will try for some other networks to try to get some backfill ads stacked up. I could go with Google Adsense, but I’ve decided against that for now due to quality concerns.



Anyhow, I made some adjustments to my Sovrn ad as an experiment in the meantime and we’ll see what happens. I’ll report on what I did + the results next month.







I decided to put the bulk of my effort into Pinterest for a few months. So far this is paying off nicely, which I’m happy to see.



(This is the highest month for me in terms of new Pinterest followers.)



My traffic from Pinterest has grown significantly from just a few months ago and I’m getting more repins than ever on my content.



In that vein, I read an interesting article the other day that recommended deleting any pins on your boards that had 0 re-pins (or, if you’re brave, even 1, 2, or 3 repins).



The logic went that by leaving only the highest repinned content on your boards, this supposedly tells the Pinterest computer that your pins on that board are massively high quality + popular.



And thus, Pinterest will show them to more people.



I don’t know if it’s 100% accurate advice, but this particular blogger implemented it and claimed to see a huge jump in re-pins + follower growth.



You can read the post for yourself here: 9 Reasons You Should Be Deleting Your Pins



After I read it I began cleaning up my main boards a little bit (this was right after the cut off date for this income report) and I must admit, I am seeing some truth to it.



I hope to report more on this next month once I do more deleting and curating!



Your turn: please share with me how your blog traffic or income changed (for better or worse) last month. If you do income reports on your blog, I’d honestly love for you to leave a link so I can read and learn from you as well.



Erika Madden

(Chief Olyvia)


The free 21 day ecourse that creates pro online impressions for business owners!

  • Jennifer Baustian

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate reading comprehensive summaries like this as someone who is in the infancy stages of monetizing a blog. Your candor, transparency and, well, bravery in sharing this type of income information on a public platform is really humbling. Seeing your growth and evolution in the early stages like this makes the journey seem a little less daunting to those of us just starting off.

    • Jennifer, thank you for going out of your way to tell me that. I set out to do this precisely to give that sort of encouragement to others, and it makes me SO happy to hear that - in some small way - I am accomplishing that. Thank you.

  • My brain hurts. I’m going to read this again once I have a pot of coffee or three in my system. I so need to figure out how to increase my traffic, etc, but darned if I can wrap my head around some of this. *sigh*

    Which has everything to do with my brain going, “Uh, this is new terminology, this isn’t what we usually read!” and veering off into the ether, and *not* your writing. I seriously need to focus…which is probably best accomplished well caffeinated and unMinionized (aka nap/bedtime)

    • Haha I’m sorry I made your brain hurt! This post here and the series after it might be more helpful to you as far as tips to increase traffic: 🙂

      I know when I first started exploring making money with ads, affiliates, and all this Google Analytics stuff, it made me head swim, too. I quickly learned it is best to just take it one smalllll thing at a time (with a lot of coffee and, yes, sans kids)!

  • Well written post! Keep up the solid work…looks like you’re growing and trending in the right direction which is all you can ask for. Does Grammarly have a referral program then? I’m looking to start similar blog posts like this for the site my wife and I run….just need to find the time now!

    • It’s definitely a learning experience. 🙂 I think I have as much fun writing the reports as I do anything else, ha! And yes, Grammarly’s affiliate program is managed by

      Thank you for your encouragement!

  • Excellent post Erika! I am so stuck between trying to figure out if I want to completely nix ads on my blog or not. Because let’s face it, ads bring on the clutter, but then if traffic is great, ads can be a good source of revenue. Right now I keep my network ads up and then I have like one Adsense and one via yahoo. I am hoping to get better optimization instead by using in post affiliate links and even sponsored posts.

    Any tips on ways to up our traffic if we notice our site has taken a plumet?

    • I hear you, Shae. There’s a fine line between tasteful ads and overwhelming clutter, IMO. It’s definitely a balance everyone who runs ads has to manage carefully, otherwise the ads can end up driving people away. This is personally why I’m only running two slots right now. I feel for my specific site/niche, more than that could get annoying.

      I’m wondering, was there a specific time when you noticed your traffic drop off? In poking around your site, I think it is really well-suited for Pinterest… how is your traffic through there? I’m thinking if you made at least one beautiful, Pinterest-optimized graphic (“long” images rather than short, “wide” images) for each post you could see a big improvement through that channel.

      I also noticed that you haven’t had a lot of “how to” or educational posts on hair care lately, which are super helpful (and popular). I think if you focused on creating new, epic content in that area, that would improve your traffic as well. 🙂

      I’d also look at where you used to get most of your readers from and perhaps redevelop those connections. Engaging in Facebook groups, Twitter chats, or Google+ communities are all good options as well.

      I hope that helps!

      • I noticed the dip maybe like last year but I’ve been trying to figure out what’s the best way to revamp and then rebuild traffic. I actually haven’t been using Pinterest that much to promote my site (Crazy I know considering I live on Pinterest). I’ll start doing more Pinterest optimized graphics, because I do know it should help.

        I’ve recognized a few pins (of other people’s posts) that I have shared that completely take on traffic, so I should probably study those and then see. And definitely I’m working on rebuilding communication in groups and on social. Thanks Erika!

    • I agree with Erika - I bet you’d do really well on Pinterest by creating some pin-optimized images to drive traffic back to your site. A little text overlay on top of a pretty vertical image can work wonders! Even turning the individual text images on your manifesto page into one big infographic would probably perform well on Pinterest:

      I think affiliate links would also work well for a site like yours. List-style posts that answer questions / solve a problem can be a great way to build affiliate income, especially when you add a Pinterest optimized image. Stuff like “Top 5 Products for XX Type of Hair” or something similar. I’ve had a lot of success with “Top Products under $XX” too. (Even doing one big post about a type of product but then breaking it down into different price points works well.)

      Hope this helps!

      • Thanks Mallory!! I’m definitely going to be looking into optimizing my posts more for Pinterest.

  • How did you get so many Twitter followers so quickly? I only have 650 and have had an account for more than 6 months!

    • Great question, Margaret Anne. 🙂 There are a few factors. The big one is that I was accepted as a guest blogger for 6 months via She Owns It ( and my posts were promoted through their Twitter channel. This directly led to several hundred new followers.

      Following that, I made it a point to regularly participate in a few fabulous Twitter chats, including #blogchat, #blisschat, and #fireworkpeople. That connected me to a lot of extraordinary people.

      I’ve also been lucky to have a handful of beautiful + loyal readers promoting me and my blog on Twitter, so that has helped a lot as well.

      I hope that gives you some extra insight!

      • I would also step in to say that Twitter is all about the connection and the conversation! Find a couple of people who you admire … retweet their stuff that you LOVE. Become their brand ambassador. You’ll find that folks who align with your values and likes and passions become new folllowers, Margaret Anne!

  • Erika, thank you for sharing, I’m delighted to see the first blogger who is courageous enough to talk about the numbers BEFORE they get too big to keep up with 🙂 (I honestly appreciate that.) And - love love love how you linked to The Beautiful Mess and The Centsational Girl to show a point in both how to do things in terms of design AND SEO 🙂 And one thing more: do you happen to have any advice on Amazon affiliate links? I’ve just started using them this week and am eager to learn! Have a great day, Damjana

    • Thank you so much for encouraging + honest comment. I really appreciate that, Damjana! To answer your question, I have two main ways I use my Amazon affiliate links. The first is to put a list of my favorite books/products in my niche on my Resources page, which you can see here:

      The second is to occasionally link to those products (or others that I really like and think will be most useful for my audience) on my social media accounts (in a Tweet or FB post, for instance). I have my best success with giving people a heads up on my fave business-related books. For you it might be children’s toys or craft supplies!

      Occasionally I will also talk about and link to a product in a related blog post if I think it will be useful to those readers. 🙂

      Hope that helps you out!

  • Oh, and one thing more, Erika: I couldn’t not notice your witty call to action to like you on FB. ‘Like Chief Olyvia? Make it official.’ I love it! How did you add it? Is there a WordPress gadget or something else? (I’m on Blogger platform and in search for something like this…) thx Damjana

    • Damjana, I got so excited about your question that I had to respond to this one first! (I’ll get to your other one, I promise. 🙂 ) That Facebook like box is from Conversions Box, and you can get that here: It does work with Blogger, and I found a tutorial for you here:

      I really like mine and it seems to help!

      • Erika, thank you so much for your thoughtful and helpful comments, you’ve just made my day! I’m following you on Bloglovin from now on, and am sure your eager-to-help-attitude is and will be one of the decisive drivers of your success in blogging.. And earning report numbers! Have a great day! Damjana

        • I’m so happy to hear that, Damjana. And thank you. 🙂

  • I love blog income reports. I plan on starting mine in May when I have more time to do them properly/ thoroughly.

    Are you building your social media organically or with paid ads as well?

    I was so excited to be approved for promoted pins but I moved from the U.S. so I can’t utilize it… Tears lol.

    Love this post xox

    • Kelita, it’s almost all organic. I have paid for a couple of Facebook ads but that was many months ago (mostly around when I launched back in June ’14) and it did almost nothing for me. I think the one time I bid for page likes I paid $20 and received 5 followers. :p I won’t ever do that again.

      And of course then I’ve done a couple Promoted Pins to drive traffic to my site.

      Thank you for your comment! (Oh and I’d be sad, too, if I couldn’t do some Promoted Pins!)

  • Corinne Falotico

    This is so informative and very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re welcome, Corinne! Thank you for taking the time to tell me that.

  • So, I spent some time yesterday deleting pins on one of my board that had 1 or less repins. I thought it was interesting to note, that ALL of the ones that were not repinned, had hashtags in them.

    • That’s a good observation Kristie, and one that I am not surprised to hear. Pinterest has said several times now in recent communications to not use them, which leads me to believe their algorithms detect them and “downgrade” those pins. (They also refuse to allow them in any Promoted Pin.)

      • Yeah, I wasn’t surprised either! Stop the pinterest hash tags!

  • Sarah

    So brave of you to put all this info out there, Erika! I think it’s interesting to be aware of, and important to pay attention to what’s working. That being said, I rarely spend much time scrutinizing my numbers to this degree because I found it can be kind of discouraging. But, it seems like the improvements that you’ve made based on your observations are smart ones! I’ve tinkered around with affiliate ads, and decided they weren’t really worthwhile for me in terms of time spent and the effect they had on my blog’s aesthetic. I’ve also experimented with ads via passionfruit. I found those to be a bit more lucrative, and you can also have more control over the look of the ad. For example, mine were text on a white background only. So far, the most lucrative avenue I’ve found would definitely be sponsored posts. The terms of the arrangement vary widely, but when you come across a good fit you can make a pretty penny off of a single post. I’ve only been lucky enough to do this a few times, but my blog is just about 2.5 years old. I’m interested in hearing more about this experiment, good luck!

  • I’ve seen you around the web quite a bit, and I’m actually shocked you’re not a “big” blogger. I love your website and I love seeing your starting point. Keep up the great work!! 🙂

  • Thanks for this! As a relatively new blogger who would one day like to earn an income from my blog, I appreciate posts like this. I see a lot of bloggers posting their income reports in the THOUSANDS of dollars per month, and I have to remind myself that they’ve been at this for years. Just starting out, I can only imagine my income would also be quite low. But hey, it’s better than a kick in the pants!

    • You’re so welcome, Monica. Yep, that’s exactly why I wanted to start the income reports NOW. It’s inspiring to see bloggers with their big numbers, but when you’re just starting out it can be both deceiving and discouraging, don’t you think? I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen go into blogging thinking they’re going to make a full time income off it alone in the first few months. And then by month 6 they give up completely. It’s too bad. 🙁