For the month of November, I established a personal challenge to improve the blog. I set out an aggressive list of items to complete. Technically, I didn’t meet my overall goal in November, but what I woke up to on December 1 was a very pleasant surprise and my expectations far surpassed what I thought would happen.
To achieve our goal of ‘developing a new source of income’ Erin and I split up the tasks. On my end, I was working on adding foundational content to the blog in hopes of future monetization. On Erin’s end, she was working on developing a side hustle unrelated to the blog. Erin’s approach actually turned into our December challenge even though it isn’t a true long-term side hustle.
So, a bit more than half way through the month I wrote a progress report so to speak. Not much had happened up to that point except for updating our ‘about us’ page and breaking through on creating the debt thermometer. Both of those though set the stage for what would be our most popular pages to date. The goal of this post is not to repeat myself again but I do have a lot to share with you with what has happened since so let’s get to it!
There were 4 tasks that I set out to accomplish this month. They were a bit aggressive but it is better to be aggressive than not. Here is the list again with an update on the progress for each one.
Task #1 – Write a definitive ‘about us’ story
I completed this task first. I’m glad I did because it served its purpose once that surprise popped up December 1. I won’t say much more about it other than I’m happy it is finally in place after all of these months. Click here for our updated ‘about us’ story.
Task #2 – Crash course on SEO
This is where things start to get interesting. Right after I hit publish on my progress report for this challenge Erin and I went to a lovely dinner hosted by Steve & Annette at Money Smart Family. We joined the local FinCon group and this was one of their meetings.
It was great to hear their stories and get tips on spending less on groceries which they are famous for. We ended up getting into SEO (search engine optimization) and I basically got an in-person crash course on SEO without even asking. What a blessing that was!
Erin’s sister Joanie Simon is a successful food blogger and she also shared a lot of valuable information as well. The combination of both meetings helped me to feel much more comfortable with SEO.
I have been reading and watching a lot of YouTube videos which gave me a good foundation but being able to ask questions and verify information really made a difference. There have been little things I have done since then to help with SEO but it will be a big task to go back and fix a lot of articles. Every new blogger does it. It is just a part of the process.
On a side note, becoming part of a community of people working on similar goals is a tremendous asset. Especially when you can be around more experienced people who have had success in the area you are working in. This goes for really anything and especially for getting out of debt or blogging. It is very easy nowadays to form an online community motivating you to get out of debt. Joining a Facebook group related to ask questions or share stories is a good tactic too.
Ranking on the First Page of Google
I’ve only focused on one article for trying to rank on Google. If you want to build any sort of organic traffic ranking on the first page of Google for a topic is critical. The article I focused on was for my debt thermometer which I will go more into later. At times, I have seen it listed on the first page which is awesome but it doesn’t tend to stick around. It is in the ballpark though so I am happy with my first try at it.
One thing that helps me though is if you Google ‘debt thermometer’ and click the link once you find it. Engagement with the link is a good thing for Google.
The topic is heavily weighted by Pintrest articles. The thermometer is really a good candidate for putting on Pintrest. We’ll just add that to our to do list.
Not all articles I write will be geared towards ranking on Google’s first page. This very article, for instance, is one of those which I wouldn’t try to rank. The tools and resources though will be focused on for ranking because I simply need organic traffic and want to gain new readers. I feel I can provide value with those resources and set me apart.
The biggest thing though is simply providing quality content. That is a very important part of SEO, but even more critical to gaining and retaining readers. Whether it is articles or resources I want to focus on providing the best I can and continually push ourselves. Our core mission is to help others struggling with debt and we need to provide value to them if we want to achieve that goal.
Task #3 – Write a ‘start here’ section
This is the section that hasn’t materialized on the blog and may not happen for a bit. I have a long post that I am working on outlining steps for getting out of debt. That was going to be my ‘start here’ section. It kind of turned into something else besides a ‘start here’ section so it will just be a big article. It is certainly an article that I need to get right so I haven’t rushed it but I should get it up for New Years. That way I can be in time for all of the New Year’s resolutions.
On a side note, I haven’t written about this before but when Erin and I decided to start paying off our debt it was basically a New Year’s resolution. It is surely the only new year’s resolution I have ever kept.
Task #4 – Create 5 tools/resources
Now for the exciting part. My goal was to make 5 tools/resources. I made three but have only released one. Upon making them I realized that it would be best to release them one by one. That way they would hopefully be more recognized. I can also be more detailed with how I put it on the site.
In the previous progress post I went into how excited I was because I finally made the debt thermometer the way I wanted. It is super easy to use and I am really proud of it.
I published the article for the thermometer on 11/27 with little fanfare. A lot of time was spent trying to get it to rank on Google and nothing really happened. I was disappointed with what happened but still very proud of the thermometer.
The Big Day
On Friday, December 1, I woke up to check the next post I published that morning which was about our December challenge. When I looked at my phone I saw more views that I had ever previously received in a day. That was just at 6 AM too.
I saw so many referrals from Rockstar Finance that I I had a suspicion that they must have linked to the debt thermometer. Sure enough, I checked my e-mail and saw that they featured it as one of their top 3 articles that day. Wow! I received a nice e-mail from J. Money congratulating me. How nice of him!
What seemed like a lost cause for recognition turned into my biggest hit. I received a lot of positive feedback and it took my page views to another level. Things have calmed down a lot since then but with adding a Facebook page for Debt Free Happens we have drastically improved our traffic.
Being featured on Rockstar Finance made my year. It made all the hard work we have put in this year worth it. I do kind of feel like having a blog is a thankless job (hobby?) but this gave me so much energy to keep going.
Going back to ‘Task #1 – Write a definitive ‘about us’ story’ I am so glad I had that up there. Once people came to our page they could get the story I wanted to tell about us. I have received some feedback that people found our story inspiring which I sincerely appreciated.
Also, I checked Google and the page started to rank. It is funny as there are different results throughout the day and a lot of the time Pintrest pushes everyone to the side. When Pintrest is being polite though you’ll see my article or blog in general on the first page as a search result. Wow!
It was easy to think that the thermometer didn’t matter to anyone (maybe an exaggeration) but sometimes you just need to have faith that what you are doing is right and things will work out. Even if it hadn’t, I’m still super proud of it and know that it can make a big impact on someone’s debt payoff.
So that was a big bang that I don’t expect repeated for our next tools/resources but I am still happy with them. The other two tools that I will release are a loan amortization schedule calculator and a monthly bill pay tracker.
The loan amortization schedule is great because you can easily calculate how much money you will save by putting extra payments towards the loan. I got into this for my post on calculating loan interest but now I will make it really easy for you to get answers quick and see how much you can save by paying your loans early.
Also, I will be making a savings thermometer to increase my audience to anyone saving for a financial goal. If you have a request for other versions of the thermometer let me know. I would love to be able to help you achieve whatever goals you are working towards.
The Benefit of Challenging Yourself
What I love about this breakthrough that I had is that it was a direct result of me creating this monthly challenge. I committed to finishing the thermometer and writing the ‘about us’ story and those ended up being the 2 most popular pages on the site. If I hadn’t said ‘let’s do this’ then it is very likely I wouldn’t have created them and had the blog exposed to a bigger audience.
This challenge literally lead to this success. Even though I didn’t do everything I hoped I still received tons of value out of what I did do.
This applies to getting out of debt too. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘let’s do this’ if you want to make progress. Just as I experienced with our recent blog successes it is even more true for getting out of debt.
So, let’s do it.