January 2011 Blog Income Report

If you’ve been reading my monthly income reports, you’d see that my goal for 2011 was to get my blog to the point where I could live off of the monthly income. In December 2010, I met my goal of 20% growth over November. Just barely, but I met the goal. If I can average a monthly income growth of 20% through the end of 2011, I’ll be well above my target monthly income.

But I opened 2011 by screwing that up. January 2011 was the first month that I didn’t meet my goal of 20% growth in income. In fact, I made less than in December. A lot less. It was a bloodbath, actually.

I made just $219.38 in January 2011, down about 73% over December 2010, when I made $809.54.

So why did I lose so much income? Two primary reasons:

  1. My post quality just wasn’t as high. I’ve been busy with some other projects and I’ve not had as much time to dedicate to researching and writing posts. This is something I’m making a big focus in February and March.
  2. Traffic is way down. A good portion of my traffic growth over the last four months of 2010 was the fact that I was getting lots of posts to hit the homepage on Hacker News, which brought a lot of traffic. But in January, not a single post of mine hit the homepage, despite several garnering enough votes to do so. I dug deeper and apparently my domain is being penalized at HN for some reason. I don’t know why, but that’s the reason my traffic is down so much from that source.

So how am I feeling? I’m disappointed, obviously, but I’m neither surprised nor upset. Of the two reasons above, #1 is completely my fault and completely fixable, and #2 is something I’ve been expecting and preparing for. I realized a couple months ago that in order to grow this to something that could replace my income, I’d need to do two things:

  1. I need to expand my audience. What the readers of sites like Hacker News want is not really what most people want. And while I’m sure many will accuse me of being shallow for commercial appeal’s sake, I really do blog about things because I enjoy helping people and exploring new ideas. And I’d like to try doing that for a wider audience, that’s all. As a result, I’ve been expecting to move away from traffic sources like HN; this was just earlier than I was hoping for.
  2. I need to focus on subscribers. Being subject to the whims of social media sites is nerve-wracking and frustrating. It encourages cookie-cutter content with overhyped headlines, just to get attention. I’d much rather build relationships with a base of subscribers who are interested in the same things that I am and who are willing to take the time to get to know me and to learn to trust me. I would love it if most of my growth came from subscribers forwarding posts to their friends. That kind of relationship-based growth is harder in many ways, but much, much more valuable. And bonus: you’re not dependent on a 3rd party for your traffic.

So while I wanted to see January do better (and Feb isn’t looking amazing either), I’m still very excited for the rest of this year. I’m going to dedicate more time to content in the coming weeks, and I’m still working on several plans to grow the subscriber base. I’ll be sharing more about that in the coming weeks, but feel free to drop me a comment if that kind of thing interests you.