I have been setting up this personal finance blog, The Progression Playbook, for about two months now so I thought it’s about time to report back on the process so far, what I have learnt and whether a blog such as this one can be effectively monetized. Starting a blog of any type is rewarding and helps you to effectively learn new skills such as website design, copywriting and marketing.
The steps to starting a personal finance blog are to purchase web hosting and a domain name, set up a WordPress site, buy a theme and design the structure of your website. Once these steps are complete, a blog owner can begin contributing content to their site and accumulate traffic overtime.
Whilst setting up a blog is a great learning experience, there is a lot of scope for going off course and making errors which could seriously damage the long-term viability of your website. To avoid this, I researched and ultimately signed up to a niche website building course called ‘Project 24’ by Income School which I am now an affiliate for (check it out here) – whilst this course is expensive, if it helps you monetize even a few months earlier, it will more than pay for itself. With the amount of information and useful advice this course provides, I can see sincerely that it has been well worth the money.
So let’s move onto how you get started when it comes to creating a personal finance blog.
How to set up a personal finance blog
The first thing to do is to set up web hosting and a domain name. Put simply, web hosting services such as BlueHost or Siteground are Companies which allow you to effectively rent out some space on the internet for a period of time. This is often the biggest cost associated with starting up a blog or website of any kind and I currently pay around £60 a year to host this website online.
Whilst this isn’t the case for some web hosting services, Bluehost gives you a free domain name at the same time. If you owned a high street business, you would give customers your street address and it works in a similar way on the internet only you give your domain name, for example, the domain name for this site is TheProgressionPlaybook.com.
The process of planning and making a blog for the first time can be overwhelming as there are many components to it. But taking action is key! This is why one of the first things is to make sure you have a web hosting option.
As there are many in the market, Consumers Advocate dedicated a research article to compare the best web hosting companies and provide additional insights that can help you to shop around for one that can fit your needs and goals with your site or blog.
The main difficulty with this part is finding a unique domain name. For example, you couldn’t register a website called ‘google.com’ because it’s already taken (and the lawyers over at google would probably take a dim view). That means for your blog you need to come up with branding that incorporates a name that can also be your domain name. For that reason, I would suggest not deciding on a final brand or company name until you have first bought that domain.
The next stage is to set up your physical website using a website creator like WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix or any of the others you can think of. Most websites (including this one) use WordPress simply because it’s free, easy to customise, search-engine friendly and constantly being updated. WordPress is fairly intuitive to learn but to speed up the process, watch a few tutorials on Youtube.
Once you have your WordPress website set-up on a solid web hosting plan with your domain name of choice, the next step is to design the physical structure. On WordPress, that will mean creating pages such as ‘home’, ‘about me’ and ‘contact’. This is where a theme comes in. A theme is basically a collection of styles and templates for you to use and amend pages on your website with. This saves a lot of time designing pages from scratch as on most good themes you can load in a pre-existing template and then edit it to suit your websites needs.
There are many good free themes such as Astra, Neve and OceanWP but I personally use Divi which is a paid-for theme but allows for the creation of great-looking websites.
The only remaining point to discuss is WordPress plugins which are basically apps for your website. A number of plugins for security, SEO, wordpress back-ups and site speed may be necessary. When it comes to choosing which plug-ins any specific website requires, I would again advise heading to Youtube and doing some research.
How to pick a niche for your blog
When it comes to creating a website, one of the first decisions will be choosing the topic or the niche your website will focus on. If your website is too broad and focuses on something like ‘sport’ overall it may be hard to lock-down a readership who are interested in your content. For example, if one of your readers is only interested in tennis content, he or she may not regularly read your blog if you’re also talking about football and boxing.
For the purpose of this post, we’re talking about personal finance which has both pro’s and con’s as a website niche. The big positive here is that this is a topic a huge proportion of the population are interested in which means the future traffic potential is high. Personal finance is also a very monetizable niche which may seem slightly counter-intuitive given readers of personal finance blogs may be more frugal than your average person. Despite this, advertising rates and affiliate income can both be lucrative in this niche.
Before starting a blog in any niche you will want to be sure the topic is being searched on the internet to a sufficient level where your website could attract some traffic. One tool for this is Google Trends where you can check both the overall volume of searches for a topic as well as whether it is trending up or down over time.
If you’re thinking of setting up a personal finance blog (or any other niche for that matter) – you should make sure you are passionate about the topic and can see yourself writing 30-100+ full blog posts on the topic without running out of material or motivation.
In recent Google algorithm changes, a greater focus has been placed on ‘your money or your life’ (YMYL) niches such as personal finance and health. The point here is that Google is highly reluctant to refer internet users to websites or blogs on these important topics without being sure they are reliable and credible.
The problem with this for a personal finance blog is that it takes longer to build this credibility with Google and therefore takes longer to develop traffic. The good news is, once you have built this credibility and are seen to have expertise in the personal finance space, you are in a great position because there are significant barriers to entry for new competition.
How to get traffic to your personal finance blog and how long it will take
A personal finance blog can attract traffic in a number of different ways including:
- Organic search – people find your blog via Google or other search engines
- Direct – you tell people your URL e.g. www.theprogressionplaybook.com and they look the blog up
- Social media – you link to your blog on a social media channel such as Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
- Other – this could include other websites linking to yours.
Whilst direct traffic, such as sending your URL to family and friends, may give your personal finance blog a boost in traffic in the early days, organic search is by far the most important of these four methods and the one where new blog owners should be dedicating most of their time too.
In the long run, most websites will end up getting anywhere between 60-95% of their traffic from organic search with the vast majority of this being through Google. It’s therefore crucial our website works well with reference to Google’s algorithm if the goal is to attract traffic.
For a new blog, it would typically take Google between six and nine months to effectively understand and index your website i.e. show it as a result on the SERP (search engine results page). This can be a difficult thing for new blog owners to come to terms with, particularly if they are not aware of this fact going in because if you have been religiously posting content to a high-quality website for five months with very little traffic, you may be tempted to give up.
For a personal finance blog, this could be even longer due to the ‘your money, your life’ category this niche falls into. Google will usually require extra time to make sure you as an author and your blog as a website are credible, reliable sources of information which it can only do if you contribute high-quality content over a sustained period of time.
The importance of good content on a blog
The phrase “content is king” is a bit of a cliche when it comes to blogging but when it comes to building credibility within the personal finance niche, it’s absolutely true.
For Google and the wider internet to trust your website and you as an author, you have to reliably share correct, helpful information with references to other credible sources. In Google speak, this is known as building EAT which stands for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
As an example, I have no experience and not much knowledge in the medical niche – so if I started writing articles about how to treat a particular illness for a child, it would be remiss of Google to rank me on their first page and start sending me traffic because they have no idea if the information I’m sharing is valid which could pose a risk to those children’s health.
In the personal finance niche, I have started to build some EAT by producing regular blog posts with helpful information but I’ve also gone a step further and directly proven my expertise by showing I am a qualified Accountant here in the UK. Whilst it’s true not every Accountant in the world understands personal finance, there’s a pretty clear link between understanding business and finance and applying it to your own personal situation.
As an example, my Accountancy qualification means I have a basic understanding of Company structures. This, in turn, means I understand how Companies are financed and have an implicit understanding of what investing in Company shares (otherwise known as ‘equities’) involves which is a key element of personal finance.
Using the project 24 course to make sure you’re on the right track
Whilst there’s a lot of information online for free when it comes to building a website, a lot of it contradicts each other and misses important steps out. It’s for this reason that when I started this personal finance blog, I signed up to a niche website course that I extensively researched beforehand to make sure I was being steered in the right direction.
‘Project 24’ by Income School is a niche website building course predicated on the belief that anybody can create a niche site which can provide a full-time income within 24 months. The course is run by Jim Harmer and Ricky Kessler (check them out on Youtube here) and I can honestly say the course has been well worth the investment.
Whilst the course is expensive at $449 (£350 depending on current exchange rate) for the first year, if this course helps you gain traffic and monetize your blog even a month earlier, the investment will more than pay itself back over time.
The course offers:
- A 60 step guide to building a niche website
- A 60 step guide to creating a Youtube channel
- A weekly podcast featuring the business owners (Jim and Ricky) with regular guests
- A discord community where hundreds of Project 24 members regularly answer questions to help other members out with their sites.
- Other mini-courses such as on developing EAT, improving your writing and how to use Pinterest to market your website.
I can honestly say that without being a member of this course, I know I would have fallen into more than a few traps whilst creating my website which would have held me back. Whilst I don’t want to share any of their specific advice, I can give one minor example.
There is, for some reason, a setting in WordPress which basically states ‘Don’t let search engines find me’ with a checkbox presumably for people with online diaries or private websites that they are not looking to share with the world. I don’t know why but I realised I had this option ticked and if I hadn’t realised, I never would have started receiving organic search traffic to this website from Google or other search engines.
How did I find out about this check-box and know to check for it on my own site? The Project 24 podcast mentioned it when answering a question about a sudden decline in traffic of one of its users. This is a small example and if you join the course you will come across hundreds of much more substantial problems the creators help you avoid.
If you want to check it out, please visit the below URL:
I have recently become an affiliate for this product which means if you sign up for this link, I get a small commission. However, I recommend this course regardless of if you use the above link or not and if you don’t want to simply google ‘Income school project 24’ and sign-up there instead.
Monetizing a personal finance blog
When it comes to monetizing a personal finance blog there are three main methods: display ads through an advertising network, affiliate sales and selling your own info product whether that be an Ebook, course or anything else.
Each of these sources depends either directly or indirectly on traffic so it’s often a good idea to prioritise building your website to a good level of readership prior to beginning the monetization process.
Building traffic is far more difficult than monetization, particularly when it comes to adding display ads and affiliate links to your website, both of which should be no more than a couple of hours work to set-up with the odd occasional hour here and there to optimise.
For full transparency, this personal finance blog has not been monetized (other than a few minor affiliate links) and as you can see, there are no ads taking up screen space. Having said that, I do intend to add these features to my website in the future to cover the costs of web-hosting and eventually pay myself for the time investment of writing posts.
So let’s take a look at each of the three sources of revenue in turn.
Monetising with adverts
Simply put, ad networks such as Google AdSense, Ezoic, Mediavine and Adthrive are willing to pay you to display ads on your websites posts based on how often readers see and click on those adverts.
Payment for ad networks works on an RPM basis which stands for rate per mili which is basically the amount of money you will be paid per a thousand page views. So if an ad network typically provided RPM’s of £10 and you had 2,000 views per month, you would receive £20 of ad revenue in that month.
For the above four ad networks I mentioned, each one only becomes available at increasing levels of monthly website traffic as shown below:
- Google AdSense – no lower limit but have to apply
- Ezoic – Need 10,000 sessions per month to qualify (if you are a project 24 member you can get access without a minimum limit which is a huge benefit as it allows you to monetize via ads so much faster)
- Mediavine – Need 50,000 sessions per month to qualify (previously 25,000)
- Adthrive – Need 100,000 sessions per month to qualify
Generally speaking, the higher the criteria for sessions, the higher the RPM your website will achieve on the ad network i.e. you would expect to get paid more per thousand page views with Adthrive than you would with Google AdSense.
Ads are a great way to monetize a website and the income is very passive in that the money you earn is not directly correlated with your time (other than by writing articles which you would presumably be doing anyway)
However, there are a few caveats. The first of which is deciding at which point to incorporate ads. Whilst it may provide a motivation boost to add ads as quickly as possible and start making a small amount of revenue, this has to be weighed up against the risk of irritating users and losing traffic.
My preference is to let traffic grow to a substantial level before adding display ads at which point the ad revenue will provide a decent amount of monthly revenue and traffic won’t be disrupted in the meantime.
Another caveat is site speed – adding display ads with most networks is likely to slow your site down somewhat simply because there is more on the page to load.
One of the networks mentioned above, Ezoic, offer a site speed booster to counteract this problem. This is usually a paid-for service but it is available for free to project 24 users (sign-up link here as a reminder).
Monetising with affiliate links
The next, and equally as popular, monetisation route is affiliate links. Affiliate revenue is where you reach out to a company to become an affiliate for a product, you purchase and test the product and if it’s of sufficient quality, you recommend it to your following (whether than be on your website or social media account) and provide a link to that product.
If any of the readers / followers go on to buy that product from your link, you would earn a small commission which can range from a couple of percent to over 50% in the case of some digital products like Ebooks.
The most popular affiliate programme is Amazon. This works in the same way as described above in that you send a link to an Amazon product related to your niche i.e. if I linked to a special calculator in an article about the CFA exams. If anyone clicks and buys that calculator, I would earn a small commission.
What’s interesting about this is you can earn commissions on the linked product and others. Using the example above, if somebody clicked my link and added a calculator to their basket and then went and did some more shopping on Amazon in the same 24 hour period and ending up buying a guitar as well, I would also earn the commission on the guitar.
It should be noted that after signing up to the Amazon affiliate programme, you must sell three products in the first 90 days or risk losing your status as an affiliate – so it’s likely only worth signing up when you have sufficient traffic that you could feasibly make these sales.
The downside to Amazon is the commission rates are fairly low (see rates by category here) and falling. The general consensus in internet marketing seems to be that, over the long term, Amazon commissions will fall further still and not provide a viable source of income.
With this in mind, it seems like finding other affiliate programmes with products that you believe in and sincerely recommend may be a good strategy. Most big retailers have affiliate programmes and content creators of info-products like Ebooks and courses are often willing to part with big commissions to promote their products.
The key point is to only promote products to readers that you yourself use and believe in – otherwise affiliate links can come off as spammy and irritating to users.
Monetising with info products
The final monetisation route is the least passive and most difficult but offers the biggest possible pay-off. An info product is typically an online product such as an Ebook, course, guide, membership site or consultation service which allows knowledge to be shared with a potential customer.
Creating and tailoring these products so they are high-quality and helpful can be a tall order but the potential rewards may make it more than worth it. As with the other monetisation routes, higher traffic will be a significant factor here.
For example, let’s say you had 100,000 page views a month and 5% clicked through to the sales page for your info product. Of the 5,000 who visit your sales page, let’s say 10% go ahead and buy the product. That means we have 500 customers a month so if we are selling an Ebook for £15 that is revenue of £7,500 a month. If you only had 1,000 page views per month however, you would only make £75 revenue per month assuming the same rates. In reality, it would probably be less than this as your product wouldn’t benefit from the social proof of other users buying and rating your offering.
A lot of thought should be put into which medium you use for your info-product. Ebooks are generally considered easier to produce. For example, I have written over 80,000 words on this blog to date which is probably enough to fill two or three Ebooks with content. The downside to Ebooks is you can only charge so much. Very few people are willing to pay over £15 for an Ebook.
Offering a video course may be a far more substantial time investment but depending on the quality and length, these can be sold for a significantly higher price. If you’re uncomfortable on camera or don’t like the idea of editing video, an audio course can also be a great option. The selling price will likely be lower but it allows you to speak directly to your customers whilst they are away from screens such as whilst driving or exercising.
Whilst overall traffic volume is important, it’s also important to understand that selling to cold traffic is very difficult i.e. a new user who visits your page to read one article is unlikely to purchase an info-product without knowing you. Developing hot traffic with people who know, like and trust you is much more conducive to selling a product and can be done via a periodic email list that is built up overtime or via a Youtube channel which let’s potential customers know you better.
Building a personal finance blog is a rewarding experience but it is not without its challenges. To set up a blog of any description you will need to sort out a domain name, organise web hosting, set up a wordpress site (or other provider site), arrange a theme and design your website’s structure and have the ideas and consistency to send out content reliably.
Building traffic is an endeavour that requires patience above anything else. For most websites, over the long-run, most traffic will come via google or other search engines organic search. This basically means internet users look up a keyword or phrase on a search engine and come across your website. In order to attract high traffic, a personal finance website has to therefore put out hugely helpful content which is better than the competition. One strategy for this can be to compete on high traffic, low competition keywords. In the personal finance space, this is easier said than done due to the saturation of the market but finding these low competition cracks can reap huge rewards.
Monetising your website can come through three main sources; display ads, affiliate links or producing and selling your own info-products. Each source has a place in earning you an income but to become truly profitable, creating and selling info-products whether that be an Ebook or course will be the profitable.
I have used Income Schools Project 24 course to help with my website.
Check it out here: https://incomeschool.com/project24/?ref=216.
I would recommend this course to anybody looking to start a website – the course offers 60 tangible steps to setting up your site and makes sure you don’t steer of course and make any errors which could cause your website to suffer.
For full disclosure, I am an affiliate for this course and earn a small commission on any sign-ups using the above links.
As always, please remember I am an Accountant, but not your Accountant. In this post (and all of my others) I share information and oftentimes give anecdotes about what has worked well for me. However, I do not know your personal financial situation and so do not offer individual financial advice. If you are unsure on a particular financial subject, please hire a qualified financial advisor to guide you.
This article has been written by Luke Girling, ACA – a qualified Accountant and personal finance enthusiast in the UK. Please visit my ‘About‘ page for more information. To verify my ACA credentials – please search for my name at the ICAEW member finder. To get in touch with questions or ideas for future posts, please comment below or contact me here.