Michelle Schroeder-Gardner runs a very profitable and successful personal finance blog called MakingSenseofCents.com. She started her blog like many do. She was in debt and saw blogging as a potential side hustle to make money online.
From humble beginnings with a simple WordPress blog, to becoming a someone who makes a million dollars per year from a blog, there are so many lessons that can be learned from the success of this website. Here at Website Creative PRO, we’re going to break down the thought process, design, traffic sources and income sources that make this blog what it is.
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 impressive looking on her blog and the the way it was in 2012. Just an unassuming WordPress blog.
She started off publishing by aggressively publishing short, 400-600 word blog posts every single day. Back then during this time of blogging, it was commonly thought that the more content you publish the better. Today this does not work and you should instead strive to meet the search intent as best you can with a branded website.
Networking with other bloggers
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 a WordPress plugin called comment luv – a now out dated plugin that would allow bloggers to leave a comment and 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 topic” and Google would then give results of blogs with comment luv installed that you could jump into an leave a comment on.
This strategy does not work today. You should only leave comments on blogs because you want to and have something to add or contribute to the blog post.
Michelle, like a lot of women is a power user of Pinterest. Her account and pins get millions of views a month and it’s one of the reasons why her blog was able to grow so fast. Pinterest was a new social media platform for images back then. As such, it was just easy to get a massive amount of traffic once you understood the platform.
Bloglovin’ is a network where bloggers can reach a wider audience of other bloggers and anyone who is just looking for good content to read.
Michelle also joined blogging networks in order to also help promote her blog. This combination of constant posting made her a better writer. Pinterest and Bloglovin’ help here get traffic and social shares. She did everything she could to get traffic instead of waiting for Google to rank and index her content.
Just take a look at her archives from 2011, she wrote an astonishing 254 blog posts in a single year, (granted, these were short posts but I want to emphasis that you need to do the work).
How she became a millionaire blogger
Michelle makes money primarily from product sales of her courses which are promoted through her email list. She also engages in affiliate marketing and sponsored content. Michelle is not currently running display advertising like Google AdSense.
She is an affiliate for Blue Host which makes her a comfortable 25k a month in commissions. 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.
She’s also used to be more prolific with 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 and so forth.
In these posts she always pushes surveys in a smart and compelling way. Surveys end up being 10k a month for her.
She allows for paid content to be published on her blog. Companies can pay her to publish a blog post and in the blog post she creates she will use affiliate links to promote the product the company is selling.
It’s a big win as she gets paid for her time, provides helpful content and makes money passively.
Let’s take a look at a sponsored content post 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.
Also, because her website has authority as a personal finance blog, this post will get organic traffic from people searching for content regarding ways to to find savings.
Last Michelle has a few in house courses she has created that are powered by Teachable. Creating your own courses is an excellent way to monetize your website and YouTube channel. Higher priced courses require an email list, but lower priced courses do sell with organic traffic.
You see how it all works together? 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 where she is an affiliate for Bluehost 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.
Then as her income grew from sponsored posts she then created a helpful course on how that process works and how you can leverage it with your own website and blog.
Her website has bad on page SEO however.
Michelle did not understand SEO when she started her blog, (she does now). 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. Let’s take a look:
Michelle does everything wrong with her URL’s. The date is useless as her website is not a news website and she puts in way too many stop words in the URL. Nice and short always wins from an SEO perspective today.
Your URL does not need to exactly match your page title, it just needs to contain the essentials and be as short as possible.
Should she change her URL structure? Absolutely not.
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 and have minimal traffic, it’s fine to change the URL structure in the early stages. The ideal structure for most blogs would be something like:
- Example.com/blog/post-title. (best for most blogs that will be 100-1000 posts)
- Example.com/category/post-title (a good alternative to the first option)
- Example.com/blog/category/post-title (for huge websites with over 1000 posts)
- Example.com/post title (Best for small websites, under 100 pages or posts).
There is no one best URL structure. Just pick a permalink structure that gives your blog a nice layout and is easy for visitors to navigate and for search engine spiders to crawl. Dates in general should only be used for news websites and websites with an example.com/post-title structure should only be used on smaller websites that won’t have many pages.
Again though, this is just a best practice. Michelle’s Making Sense of Cents website gets a lot of traffic even with a poor URL structure.
How to have blogging success
Blogging is a longer term strategy. To have success you need to create a branded website that is about a specific topic. Then, create content and build that website into an authority on a given subject.
If your website is about personal finance, stick to personal finance related topics. If you want to branch out to other topics don’t unless there is some way to tie it back to what your brand is about.
Google loves brands so build a brand. Don’t publish random topics about finance in one post and then dating advice in the next post.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner Making Sense of Cents Conclusion
So that is it for Website Creative PRO’s take on this wildly successful personal finance blog. From simple beginnings of launching a WordPress blog to then becoming a millionaire, Michelle is someone to admire and model after. If you want to start a blog, we have an excellent free tutorial.
David UtkeDavid Utke is a professional blogger, YouTuber and a highly rated user experience consultant. He and his team create helpful tutorials, software reviews, videos and more based on real-world experience. Join over 30,000 monthly readers and 20k+ YouTube subscribers!
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